Stage Capsule Reviews

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

Late Nite Catechism You don't have to be Catholic to love Late Nite Catechism, the "one-sister" show running at Stages Repertory Theatre, though it probably wouldn't hurt. No matter your denomination, there are plenty of laughs, even if you're one of those unfortunate "publics" whose parents obviously didn't care about them and sent them for a substandard education at a nonreligious school. Well, that's what Sister (Amanda Hebert) tells us, and what she says during her evening class is Holy Writ. Discard her wisdom at your peril. Under her 20 pounds of black gabardine, Sister commands her after-school catechism class with smooth, sly humor and a martinet's tough-love discipline, teaching us, her unruly pupils, the finer arts of Catholic theology. Never fear, heathens, this is one sharp Sister. We learn about which saints should be eliminated from the 75,000 on the Vatican's official list, and the exact meaning of the Stigmata, and who in fact populated the earth after Adam and Eve. It's a free-form sort of show, with classroom participation leading Sister to deliver delightful asides while gently mocking her charges. As a piece of education, it works, but it falls short as theater, being much too long, meandering and, in Act II, repetitive. But Hebert, a former stand-up comedienne who's been performing Sister since 1999, still has us right in the palm of her ruler-clad hand. Through September 30. 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123. — DLG

Cat, Mouse, Bird and Boy and Veteran Silas New company Wordsmyth Theater begins its life with two original plays that have been developed at University of Houston's Edward Albee New Playwrights Workshop. Cat, Mouse, Bird and Boy by Elizabeth Ann Earle needs redevelopment. What can you expect when you mix peppy talking animals (the household pets of a newly arrived, eager-to-please-his-bosses Nazi doctor), an innocent country farm girl who's his new wife and a Third Reich History 101 lesson? Although it's supposed to be dialogue, the stolid lecturing details every Nazi abomination without revealing anything about the horrors of the concentration camps that we haven't known for the last 60 years. The mounting evils exist solely for the little wife to see what a monster her loving husband is becoming. The "boy," fortunately kept offstage, is a symbol, and not a very convincing one. Either ax the furry things or the humans, but both together is an unholy alliance that's naive and unsettling — Disney meets Albert Speer. Creepy. Veteran Silas by Asher Wyndham is the better play. Though repetitive, it is fraught with raw intensity, thanks to a brutal performance by Michael Barrick as a psychotic Iraq war veteran who can't shake the hallucinations and guilt that his best friend was killed and he wasn't. But if you start off crazy, where else can you go? Scenes repeat the same theme without enlarging it. But sandpaper-voiced Carolyn Montgomery as no-nonsense Granny adds the right touch of normal helplessness as her terrifying grandson careens down the road to his own hellish redemption. Through September 2. 536 Westbury Square, 281-788-8007. — DLG

The Subject Was Roses "Kitchen sink" drama is a maligned genre that can surprise when least expected. Small in scale, intimate in production, its themes of family dysfunction can resound with deafening accuracy when the actors meld into their characters and speak from the heart. Frank Gilroy's Tony Award-winning play, set after World War II, is almost too big for Country Playhouse's Black Box. The shifting alliances between blustery dad John (Bob Maddox), suffering mom Nettie (Lisa Schofield) and returning son Timmy (Raygan Kelly) stress the decibel level whenever possible. Emotions don't seethe under the surface so much as explode every time someone disagrees, except for one scene that has the quiet desperation and volcanic regret around which the entire play revolves. The family's a mess; love has gone unsaid and undemonstrated so long it's a faded memory. After another fateful confrontation, Nettie lies awake in the darkened living room. Timmy discovers her on the sofa and confesses that he's leaving home to make a life of his own — implying "away from you two." Mom knows this instinctively. She hugs a cushion as if it were her lost dreams and quietly tells her son of her early loves, how she met his father and what he was like before life took its toll on both of them. It's a haunting monologue, the best in the play, and Schofield plays it like she's revealing moonlight — sharp shadows and blue outlines. She's mesmerizing. Mattox and young Kelly's reconciliation scene is equally affecting. Before then, all the yelling might scream "drama," but sometimes it's best to just hug a pillow and quietly sigh. Through September 8. 12802 Queensbury, 713-467-4497. — 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
Ishanee Parikh
Lee Williams