Stage Capsule Reviews

American Homefront The idea behind Fernando Dovalina's new play American Homefront sounds promising. The story centers on the parents of a soldier who's been captured by a militant fringe group of terrorists in Iraq. Complicating matters is the fact that the young man is gay, but his hyperreligious mother (Elva Evans) has no idea that her son is a homosexual, as she puts it. She is thus doubly undone when a major (Jason Champion) shows up on her doorstep to inform her that her son has been taken hostage and, by the way, he's gay, so he may be in even more danger due to the religious fanaticism of his captors. She fights with her husband Rob (Kelly Williams), who does know about his son's sexuality, over what is more important — the boy's dire present circumstances or the danger to his immortal soul. At this point, what sounded like a good idea becomes pretty far-fetched. It's hard to believe that two parents would carry on a long (really, really long) vaguely philosophical rant while a beloved child is in a life-threatening situation. The unbelievable writing is made even less credible by Karen Heimbaugh's direction, which often has the characters discussing very urgent matters with their backs to each other, laughing wildly in utterly inappropriate places and generally moving about Stormy Mitchell's unattractive set in clumsy, hand-wringing fits of what is supposed to be anxiety. Unfortunately, on the night I saw the show, many of the actors were having so much trouble remembering their lines, and were generally so inexperienced, that most of the real anxiety was probably happening in the audience. Through July 14 at the Silver House Theatre, 1107 Chartres, 713-547-0126. — LW

Forever Hold Your Peace The singing Fertle Family is back with a story nothing short of hilarious. As the eve of Gwenda and Uncle Al's wedding approaches, guests are frantically trying to get to the wedding. Meanwhile, menopausal Justicena, who can't seem to understand her husband Pete's love, kicks him out. He's left to fend for himself, when none other than the Lord Himself provides him with guidance from up above. And the cold feet of the couple-to-be cause stress for every member of the wedding party. What about sex? Can an old man whose hip is out of place still manage to please his future wife? Radio Music Theatre's productions would be incomplete without music, and the musical stylings at Uncle Al's bachelor party effortlessly amuse the crowd. While the initial humor took a few scenes to settle into, after intermission there were no scenes which didn't call for at least a chuckle. Every character, played by actors Steve and Vicki Farrell and Rich Mills, had a distinctly different style, and even scenes that required more than three characters were flawlessly performed. The transitions from awkward girl to scandalous lady to singing nun by Vicki Farrell were impeccable. Steve Farrell's minister giving sex advice and senile old man caused lots of laughter. But Rich Mills's transitions from biker to menopausal woman to old man were, by far, the favorite. Through Sept. 1. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — IP


American Homefront, Forever Hold Your Peace, The Gift of Night and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

The Gift of Night Somewhere between lyric poetry and contemporary dance, in the far reaches of the uncharted territory of art, floats Jenny Campbell's The Gift of Night, the most recent production from Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre. Apocalyptic, mesmerizing and thoroughly strange in the best sort of way, the 30-minute piece is full of dark images that come and go like the wind. On one side of the stage, tiny houses drift in, only to be blown away or crushed by some sort of terrible storm that's enacted with a fan and a long piece of silky fabric. On the other side is an optometrist's office. Both a human and a puppet optometrist spend their time onstage trying to see and make sense of a world that is clearly falling apart. Inspired by a surreal short story called "The Gale" by Bruno Schulz, the piece includes bits of disquieting music by Christopher Daniello and Valerie Pinchuck, a voice-over that speaks in fragments and haunting puppets of all sorts created by Marcia Yingling, Justin Dunford and Katie Jackson. All this comes together to examine ideas about memory, loss, our need for place and home and, most of all, our collective obsession with assigning meaning to the horribly arbitrary moments of our lives. Through July 16. Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation, 713-526-7434. — LW

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown Good grief! Charlie Brown and his friends entertain themselves on a typical day, with baseball, blankets and Schroeder's favorite — Beethoven. Between Lucy's overbearing personality and crabbiness, which she has to confirm through a self-made survey, and Snoopy's melodramatic cry for food, the musical keeps the audience excitedly watching. Each act features catchy tunes played by the talented pianist Stephen W. Jones, and whether the songs are fast or slow, happy or sad, there's an energy throughout the show. Regardless of age, all the actors capture their characters, and Dionysus Theatre's inclusive casting — the show features some actors with disabilities — channels Charlie Brown's message. Though the play is geared toward children (their nonstop laughter at a recent show was proof of that), even adults can enjoy the lighthearted musical of everyone's favorite comic strip. Charlie Brown may not be perfect, but at the end of the day, he's still the hero everyone loves. Through July 21. Jewish Community Center, 5601 S. Braeswood, 713-728-0041. — IP


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