Once again, Johnny Depp dresses up like a pirate. And once again, he's likely to be nominated for an Oscar for his swashbuckling ways. But unlike last year's frenetic Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Neverland (which opens Friday) is a subtle, sober, and eventually joyous celebration of an artist at the top of his game.
Depp plays Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie, fresh from a flop and floundering for inspiration -- which comes in the form of four fatherless boys. Barrie unlocks the boys' imaginations and, in the process, his own, going on to write the timeless Peter Pan. "I was attracted to the transformation of imagination and how he was inspired," explains director Marc Forster, who guided Halle Berry to an Academy Award with Monster's Ball. "But it ultimately deals with these topics of mortality and the dying of the inner child [to] become a man or woman."
While Finding Neverland is a moving portrait about creating a classic, it's also about the power of gleeful motivation. "I'm a great believer in the manifestation of dreams," says Forster. "Follow your passion and what you really believe in. Do something that makes you happy." See Short Takes for a review. -- Michael Gallucci
A Committed tour de force.
In Fully Committed, opening Friday at the Beck Center, a single performer -- playing an out-of-work actor answering the phones at a busy posh restaurant -- portrays more than 40 people onstage. "The basic character is an inactive character -- everything occurs around him," explains director Curt Arnold. "Over the course of the piece, we see him change from an inwardly focused to an outwardly focused person." Without props, costume changes, or makeup, Nick Koesters transforms himself into patrons, callers, and family members who dog the telephone-tied thespian. "The challenge is keeping the distinction between the characters," says Arnold. Fully Committed is at the Beck Center (17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood) through December 19. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15 to $26; call 216-521-2540. -- Michael Gallucci
Angels in the Out Field
Gay cherubs play ball in CPT's Touched.
As a mysterious "noir angel," Dan Kilbane is nothing short of a flirtatious tramp in Touched: Bodies of Work, a collection of one-act plays, poetry readings, and songs . . . all with a gay twist. In A Rustle of Wings, a guardian angel comes on to a man at a bar and draws the unsuspecting guy out of the closet. "Let's say I'm a neo-leather-man-cum-angel, and I teach him something about himself," explains Kilbane (pictured right). "But it's done in a fun, flirty, sensual way." Touched is at Cleveland Public Theatre (6415 Detroit Avenue) Thursday through November 28. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 to $15; call 216-631-2727. -- Cris Glaser
Attention Early Shoppers
Cleveland's Christmas Connections has some pretty swell gift ideas -- like a portable hot tub and lipstick that doesn't wear off. The 19th annual arts-and-crafts show/holiday retail blowout/family-activity center also features live entertainment and food. It happens from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the I-X Center, 6200 Riverside Drive. Admission is $8.75, free for kids; call 440-835-9627. -- Lucy McKernan
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