Capsule Stage Reviews: The Annual Festival of Originals, Electile Dysfunction, Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming

The Annual Festival of Originals For 11 years, hungry playwrights from across the country have been submitting their scripts in hopes of seeing their words come to life onstage. Return addresses include both prisons and universities. Only five get chosen for a full production, and there are two charming comedies among the lucky quintet of selected scripts. The best two of the five actually come after intermission and include Carl Williams's A Thirties Affair, a laugh-out-loud comedy that's full of smart characters and zippy one-liners. The second success is Warren Holleman's The Comity of Eros, a take on Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, written in verse. As the title implies, the story is about a man and a woman and sex. This script is the most finished and daring of the night. This little production is strong enough to make the whole second half of the night worth it. Unfortunately, three other scripts limp along with a number of problems. Tanya Seale's Cafe Deux Parfaits is a predictable idea that isn't helped by the script's construction or the direction. Brian Heaton's Holding on to Rose is a bizarre drama that asks its audience to believe that a man has spent 15 years cooking meals for and talking to his dead wife. And John Kaiser's Simply Stunning, about a Tupperware-style party for stun guns, is spun around the joke that women wish they could have physical power over men, which isn't so funny when you think about it. As weak as some of the scripts are, if you can make it through intermission, your ticket to the festival will pay off. Through August 9. Theatre Southwest, 8944-A Clarkcrest, 713-661-9505. — LW

Electile Dysfunction Radio Music Theatre has tackled the wild and wacky polit­ical season with this funny play, which is full of characters as kooky as the past few months have been. Writer/director Steve Farrell knows just how to put things into perspective. His silly show features the Jones family from Precious Trees, "the most planned planned community" in Houston. Mom, Dad and Junior all support different candidates. The Spy Eye News team finds out about the argument and decides to feature the family as a human interest story. The actors present the newscast complete with commercials; the funniest features a very familiar furniture salesman named Uncle Dan (played by a hysterical Farrell), who sells a "political leaning chair" that leans to the left or the right depending on your preference and a recliner that shoots bullets. Back on the show, Damn Mad (Rich Mills) rants about politics, and the biggest story of the week focuses on the pastor of the big­gest church in Texas — it's so big it used to be a whole ranch. Nothing is actually settled during the show, but lots of fun is had as the politics of the hour get chewed over. Through November 15. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — LW

Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming If you like your gospel music tinged with Sunday school, this sequel to the successful Smoke on the Mountain and Sanders Family Christmas franchise will entertain, enlighten and set your boots a-tappin'. The singing Sanders Family — somewhat akin to the von Trapps, only without those annoying children — have scheduled a reunion at the North Carolina home base of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. One of their own is leaving to go to Texas with her preacher husband, and the family wants to sing together one last time. There's Mom and Dad, Vera and Burl (Karen Hodgin and Gerry Poland); the twins, Denise and Dennis (Abby Bergstrom and Jason Hatcher); and daughter June (Katharine Weatherly), who's married to Pastor Oglethorpe (Stephen Hurst). The black sheep of the family, Uncle Stanley (Craig Griffin), has suddenly arrived after being spotted at the Blue Nose Bar. Because he's the last one to "witness," you know he has a secret that's soon to be revealed. Everything works out swell at the end, because that's the type of musical this is — faith-based and good — which is a refreshing change of pace for sure. The harmonies the cast members spin are luscious, and they're all fine performers and musicians — they play mandolin, harmonica, bass fiddle, piano, ukulele, guitar, washboard, spoons, you name it — and June signs for the deaf, too. The knotty pine church interior is perfect, as are the '40s day dresses and seamed silk stockings. If you've recently been naughty, go get smacked upside the head with a Sanders rendition of "I'll Never Die" or "Children Talk to Angels"; it'll do you a world of good. Through August 31. A.D. Players, 2710 W. Alabama, 713-526-2721. — DLG

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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