Jekyll and Hyde -- The ultimate story of split identities, Jekyll and Hyde (the musical) features a collection of similar-sounding musical numbers linked by less connective tissue than an anatomy-class skeleton. But the folks at the Beck Center manage to make J&H an entertaining excursion into the schizoid mind. Dr. Henry Jekyll is absorbed in his quest to isolate good from evil in a human being, but his study is rejected. So he tries his potion on himself and morphs into Edward Hyde, freelance sociopath. Actor Dan Folino turns Jekyll into an obsessive-compulsive geek, beaten up by the powers that be. But once he mainlines his joy juice, jerky Jekyll is replaced by a smoothly amoral Mr. Hyde with flowing locks -- a self-admiring and homicidal cross between Fabio and Dick Cheney. Folino's lustrous singing voice makes many of the tunes sound better than they actually are. And matching Folino in stage presence and singing power is Amiee Collier, who plays the whore Lucy Harris with street-wise sensuality. But no other characters are drawn with an ounce of interest or individuality. And once Hyde goes on his rampage during the "Murder! Murder!" number, director Scott Spence gives in to special-effects cheese better fit for the Itchy & Scratchy Show. The slick production, however, is abetted by a gorgeous set designed by Don McBride, and the musical direction by Larry Goodpaster is largely flawless. Through August 5 at the Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, 216-521-2540. -- Howey
Richard III -- Sure, there was a lot of killing in the sweaty flick 300, but Shakespeare was no slouch himself when it came to beheadings and other assorted homicides, as he proves in this play. Amid a swirl of dreams and prophecies, the deformed Richard pursues his how-to-be-a-king procedural with frightening ferocity. The role of Richard in this production by the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival is taken by Allan Branstein, an able actor, but one who, even with a lump and a limp, never becomes a true Dick. He lacks vocal resonance and doesn't shape his speeches so they thrill and disgust in equal measure. Better are Reagan Kendrick as the doomed Lady Anne and a fiery Cat Kenney as Margaret. Indeed, one could actually imagine Kenney doing quite a turn in the title role. Director Allan Byrne has some fun with unusual music cues (including "Send in the Clowns" when the two lunkheads are sent to assassinate the young princes). But he allows his actors to take root in too many scenes, making the entire proceeding feel a bit static. Still, it's Shakespeare, it's free, and it's outdoors. So what's to complain about? Through August 5 at different locations. Visit www.cleveshakes.org for more information. -- Howey
Spawn of the Petrolsexuals -- Bringing an underground comic to life is the task of Spawn of the Petrolsexuals, a new play by local writer Christopher Johnston. In an oil-depleted dystopian world, a band of homeless survivors -- Angerboy, Freegirl, Ingen, and Holyman -- imagine themselves superheroes in battle with repressive corporate evil and plan an attack on suburbia. But the whole post-apocalypse thing has been done to death, and accusing suburbanites is played out. Moreover, there are no fully dimensional characters. Geoffrey Hoffman, as Angerboy, does a lot of scowling and cussing, but little more. Freegirl is played by Jovana Batkovic with the hollow-eyed look of Lindsay Lohan between rehabs. Robert J. Williams does what he can with Holyman, mouthing random quasi-religious platitudes, and Lauren B. Smith contributes a spirited reading of her unfocused character, Ingen. While Johnston can put words together in an interesting way, he has no self-editing function, which results in too much repetition and useless wordplay ("You are your own worst enema," etc.). He also achieves perhaps the year's theatrical low, when Holyman provides liquid refreshment by pissing in his fellow travelers' mouths. The Convergence-Continuum crew, under the guidance of director Clyde Simon, does put a lot of energy into this production, and there's a bit of trickery that may fool you. If the playwright could've sustained that sort of imagination, Spawn might have achieved a unique comic-book sensibility. Through August 11, produced by Convergence-Continuum at The Liminis, 2438 Scranton Road, 216-687-0074. -- Howey
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