Steel Magnolias Old-fashioned as it may be, Robert Harling's 1987 comedy-drama about a girl who suffers from complications from diabetes remains a very tender story that's as funny as it is sad. And when the actors are as uniformly strong as the ones getting their up-dos at Truvy's Beauty Parlor on the stage at A.D. Players, the story is likely to move even the most cynical in the audience. Directed by Lee Walker with care and grace, the cast moves through the emotional tale with steely care, lifting it out of the sticky sweetness of melodrama. Christy Watkins is a charming Truvy Jones, the kind of hairdresser we'd all love to have. She listens to problems and gives out sweet advice and big hugs. As M'Lynn Eatenton, Cyndi Scarr Crittenden is heartbreakingly strong, especially when her daughter Shelby (Abby Bergstrom) is in trouble. The funniest of the bunch are Jeannette Clift George as Ouiser Boudreaux, the curmudgeonly rich neighbor, and Patty Tuel Bailey as the acerbic Clairee Belcher; both are laugh-out-loud funny. Everyone knows the ending, but this fine production makes the familiar ride worth it. Through August 30. 2710 W. Alabama, 713-526-2721. — LW
The Story of Burford, Category 5 Hurricane Ike might be just a sweat-soaked memory, but if Steve Farrell, the dude who writes all the silliness for Radio Music Theatre, has his way, we'll all be thinking storm surge soon. The Story of Burford, Category 5 imagines what will happen if a Category 5 storm really did blow our way. We meet the Spy Eye News team just as Burford is gathering steam out in the Gulf. City fathers are about to launch the "Houston Smug Campaign," thinking if that sort of attitude works for the folks in New York and L.A., the Bayou City should be able to get the same thing working. The story also follows the developers of places like Driftwood, who know they're building McMansions on floodplains but don't care. Then there are all those Canadians buying up Houston. One's here spending his time at the Poontang Club, getting the rib eye/table dance combo. Meanwhile, Burford is gathering power in the Gulf. Soon enough, it's a Category 5, enough to blow the city off the map — well, not quite. In Radio Music Theatre world, we still have the Art Boat Parade. And because we're so damned innovative, Houstonians know how to make big bucks out of disaster. Think gondolas and theme parks! It's all fun and giggles with Farrell, his wife Vicki Farrell and Rich Mills, the three-performer team who enact all the characters in this show — a very goofy way to forget about what could happen should a real Cat 5 barrel our way. Through August 30. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — LW
The Tamarie Cooper Show: Journey to the Center of My Brain (in 3-D) The latest installment of Miss Cooper's annual summer musical enchantment, wherein we are treated to her life and times as well as her wry observations of the same, possesses all the comic elements we've come to expect from Houston's Botticelli comic. So why does it seem so flat? There have been at least a dozen versions of the franchise — the current production delves scientifically into her state of mind because of her pregnancy — but the surprise of it all is dampened. We expect goofy songs (more second-rate ones this time around), Monty Pythonesque humor, and political putdowns — and they're all in there — but it's not very different from previous shows. Just more of the same. Granted, it's fairly funny, and no matter what she does, we laugh, because, let's face it, she's a damned funny lady. While she spends a great deal of this show sitting down, her face is never in repose, and that's what we want to see. Naturally, she has the incredible theatrical sense to surround herself with equally wacky colleagues, who take some of the weight of the show off her delicate condition, especially the inventively hilarious Kyle Sturdivant as Miss Cooper's battered, embittered Self-Control; the dead-pan drollery of Walt Zipprian as drugged-out Dopamine and dead-on Ann Coulter; the blissful Sen Patrick Judge as a never-ending Cat Stevens and a perfectly platitudinous Mr. Darcy; and over-the-top Jeremy Carlson as over-the-top Adrenalin. If you've never experienced Miss Cooper and her Catastrophic Theatre rogues gallery, by all means go and have a swell time. If you love her shows, you could care less what I say. Through August 29. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Pkwy. 713-527-0123. — DLG
The Story of Burford, Category 5
The Tamarie Cooper Show: Journey to the Center of My Brain (in 3-D)
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