Capsule Reviews

Captain's Outrageous Playwright and industrial communications consultant David DeBoy began his acting/writing career in Baltimore's dinner theater scene. "With so many dinner theaters and not enough light comedies, we were sometimes forced into doing mediocre plays that needed a lot of punching up," he has said. "One day I was handed a really poor script, and I suggested that I could write a funnier one from scratch in three weeks. The producers took me up on my offer." With those facts in mind, his light little comedy Captain's Outrageous makes perfect sense. It's ideal dinner theater fare, because it needs as much distraction as it can get: clanking silverware, sounds of chewing and plenty of alcohol. There are so many themes, plots, styles, character inconsistencies and digressions that you could, indeed, take time out to devour a steak dinner, and upon looking up, see that nothing much has happened. Unfortunately, Playhouse 1960 does not give you food, so when you watch it without interruption, you also think, "I can do better than that." Loveable curmudgeon Captain Sean W. O'Michaels (John Stevens) raises hell at the hospital where he's undergoing tests for ulcers. In any normal world, his behavior -- which includes kidnapping and serious investment scams -- would have him behind bars or in a straightjacket; here, though, they're just the cute, adorable antics of a cute, adorable old codger. Fortunately, the production (which seems to have gone on stage with minimum rehearsal) is blessed by the performance of Stevens as the old rascal. Stevens knows exactly what he's doing and how to do it, so he imbues the "captain" with the charm and charisma that the playwright has shoved aside to make room for wheezy jokes and stale farce. Pass the broccoli, please. Through October 28. 6814 Gant Rd., 281-587-8243.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical This frothy bubble of silliness now running at Stages Repertory Theatre requires absolutely zero brain power to get through. Cobbled together out of stereotypes and a sitcom-like plot, the featherweight bit of camp by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso celebrates white-trash ladies and the men they love in a funky little tale about a phobic housewife and her lonely-heart man. Setting the stage and guiding us through the story is a chorus of three women: Betty (Susan O. Koozin), a sturdy mother hen with a heart of gold who runs the whole shebang; Pickles (Mikah Horn), a young dumb-as-dirt, sweet-as-sugar blond who shows all the signs of suffering from a hysterical pregnancy; and Lin (Carolyn Johnson), strutting around with her cleavage out to there and worrying all the while about her man on death row. This cartoon strip of a story focuses on Norbert and Jeannie Garstecki, a long-married couple who love each other despite the fact that Jeannie (Melodie Smith) suffers from agoraphobia and hasn't set foot outside her little trailer home in years. Nothing in the story is surprising, but the music is entertaining, and Stages has put together a cast of solid singers who capture their characters in bold, broad and colorful strokes. Through October 29. 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe You certainly don't go to this kiddie show expecting the mega-million-dollar Disney super-production, and as long as you accept it for what it is -- and you're under eight years old -- then this speed-dial version will thoroughly satisfy. The A.D. Players Children's Theater adaptation of C.S. Lewis's classic fairy tale asks us right away to use our imaginations to see what isn't there. The Chronicles of Narnia has been pared to the size of a thumbnail sketch. The four children are played winningly by two actors (Abby Dawson and Cliff House). Pools of light delineate "the story" from "the explanation," while cunning sound effects fill in atmosphere, such as the wardrobe's creaky door, crowd scenes and apt snippets from Harry Gregson-Williams's score from the blockbuster movie. Lewis's Christian symbolism has been excised, but the young ones will relish Jeff McMorrough in his Aslan lion suit, Kevin Deaver as the chivalrous faun Mr. Tumnus, Marty Blair as the harried Beaver and especially Patty Tuel Bailey as the White Witch, with her evil cackle. If nothing else, this imaginative, if super-truncated, version will spur the kids to read the book and ask for Turkish delight. If that isn't the magic of theater, what is? Through October 21. Rotunda Theater, St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer, 713-526-2721.

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover
Lee Williams