Capsule Stage Reviews: Amadeus, Nursery School Musical, The Pie Dialogues

Amadeus The life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has fascinated the world since the child prodigy turned musical genius died in 1791, when he was only 35 years old, after producing an astounding body of work. Peter Shaffer's Amadeus (made famous in the 1984 film directed by Milos Forman) captures a bit of that life through the point of view of Antonio Salieri, Mozart's greatest enemy — as imagined in Shaffer's drama. Though Shaffer takes quite a few liberties with Mozart's story, the play is nevertheless compelling, and the revival at Country Playhouse manages to make Mozart's sad tale fascinating, even if it does run three hours. A good deal of the credit goes to Travis Ammons, whose take on the giggling Mozart is charmingly tragic. Also good are Shenoa Cramer as Constanze Weber, Mozart's wickedly adoring wife, and J. Clark Bawcom, the effeminate and hysterically funny Emperor Joseph II. Andrew Adams does as well as one might expect with the overwritten role of Salieri, even if Adams does chew the scenery a bit during some of the more dramatic moments. Director Stuart Purdy might tone that down a bit. But Mozart is such a fascinating fellow, most will forgive Shaffer's long monologues so that they can enjoy the briefer moments with Ammons's wildly beguiling take on the genius that was Mozart. Through March 7. 12802 Queensbury Lane, 713-467-4497. — LW

Nursery School Musical Politically incorrect and often very funny, Theater LaB Houston's production of Nursery School Musical features everything from an alcoholic teacher to a preschooler singing about pooping ("My Pants"). The wacked-out story about a trio of three-year-olds on their first day of school is as silly as it gets, but some of the moments will hit home for anyone who's got a toddler underfoot. The book and lyrics by Racheal and Brett McCaig, along with Anthony Bastianon's bouncy music, aren't complicated, but the young, charming cast at Theater LaB, under Jimmy Phillips's direction, moves the tale along with unflagging energy. Between songs, there are commercial interludes featuring a cloyingly vapid host (Kregg Dailey) announcing first a company called Nannies 4 Nothing (all immigrants willing to raise your child for you), and then Buddies for Breeders (people who will listen to your boring stories about your kids). During songs parents fuss over their little ones, then gloat about being able to have sex now that their baby's in school. Josh Wright is especially funny in "I'm Boring," about how he's turned into a guy whose sole focus is his child, and Wright and Leo Laredo have some hysterical scenes dressed up as babies in strollers discussing such things as the fine art of breast feeding. It's fast and fluffy, but the one-act offers a laugh-out-loud diversion for anyone who's been a parent. Through March 21. 1706 Alamo, 713-868-7516. LW

The Pie Dialogues Parenting is a long, hard road. Joseph Lauinger's engrossing The Pie Dialogues, premiering at Main Street Theater, follows one couple as they travel from their daughter's first days in school to the moments before her wedding. Dawn (Gwendolyn McLarty) and Sean (Josh Morrison) are two very different people, but that doesn't stop them from adoring their sweet Pie. While loving their daughter, they bicker with each other relentlessly about everything from the value of private school to whether teenage Pie should be allowed to paint her room black, to Sean's wobbly career as a writer. Dawn is a potty-mouthed lawyer who makes the big bucks. Over the years, Sean and Dawn struggle with their relationship, but their love for their daughter stays constant. Under the direction of Andrew Ruthven, the quiet pair of actors, who make up the entire cast of this small but effective story, build steam and pull the audience in, both despite and because of their constant conflict. McLarty makes a smart and headstrong mom, while Morrison is both kind-eyed and tender as the adoring dad. And though it takes a few scenes for these characters to bloom into compelling individuals, their arguing develops into a thoughtful story about parenthood's power to make friends of the most unlikely people. Through March 22. 2540 Times Blvd., 713-524-6706. LW

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Lee Williams