George Gershwin Alone — While there are some rough spots in this production, overall it does a masterful job of capturing the ego-driven artist in full flower. Unfortunately, this show doesn't bring us much closer to understanding the man behind those sheets of majestic music. Playwright (and star) Hershey Felder reduces Gershwin's Russian Jewish immigrant parents to stereotype walk-ons. His famed lyricist brother, Ira, is mentioned only in passing. But the pop and jazz icon's inspired ear for music comes through loud and clear. Felder looks remarkably like Gershwin, and he affects a rapid-fire delivery that probably approximates how a young Brooklynite on the make would speak. The glorious music is also handled with distinction — if a bit of a heavy hand at times — by Felder, an accomplished concert pianist. At the conclusion of the show, Felder comes out as himself and leads a sing-along with the audience, tinkling their favorite Gershwin ditties. While this exercise is chummy enough, the preference here would have been to use that time for a deeper look into what made Gershwin and his rhythms so fascinatin'. Through February 3 at the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Avenue, 216-795-7000. — Christine Howey
I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady From Rwanda — This small diamond of a play by Sonja Linden employs just two actors, but they convey a richly nuanced view of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Simon is a frustrated middle-aged poet who's taken a job at a London refugee center, hoping to teach recent arrivals the healing art of writing. But he is surprised when his first client, twentyish Juliette, arrives with a completed book, ready for his analysis, about the atrocities her family experienced in Rwanda. She is put off by the lack of books with Simon's name on them in his office. He admires her collection of facts, but encourages her to bring out her feelings about what happened. Director Brian Zoldessy artfully guides his actors through a series of short scenes that reveal the immense issues these characters confront, and what seems like a trite matchup of two lost individuals is rescued by Linden's refusal to bask in easy sentiments or misplaced romantic undertones. As Juliette, Andrea Belser takes time to bring meaning out of the playwright's deceptively simple words. And Scott Miller so excellently embodies mediocre writer Simon that his clammy, flop-sweat-soaked soul is almost tangible. Tyson Rand's simply designed set features a couple of boxes and vertical units in shades of gray, with hints of a London skyline and a Rwandan jungle — staging that helps convey Simon and Juliette's drab surroundings. When it's over, both Juliette and Simon realize they will never fully understand each other's lives. But their meeting is a blessing for each, as it is for the audience members who witness it. Now at Tri-C East and at various locations through February 1. Visit www.dobama.org for details, or call 216-932-3396. — Howey
Orange Flower Water — In this 95-minute one-act play, playwright Craig Wright expresses the nuts and bolts of marital confrontation better than he explores any fresh territory. The four actors initially walk out, one by one, and take their seats at the four corners of the stage, each person pointed more or less to the bed in the center. Having established the aura of a prizefight, we expect to see plenty of figurative fists fly. And so they do. Kathy (an icily cool Teresa McDonough) comes forward to sweetly share her love for hubby David. But that's pretty much the last time anyone has anything tender to say about a mate. David is soon seen groping his friend Brad's wife, Beth (Jen Klika), in a motel room. Round by round, we see each of the marriages take more and more body blows, as the unseen collateral damage to both families' children is noted in passing. Author Wright has a clever way with dialogue, and his scene structure is both good and original, but what's good isn't original and what's original isn't good. Director Sean McConaha brings strong performances out of his talented cast, especially Mark Mayo, who is both brash and wounded as David. But there are too many missed opportunities, including David's concluding monologue, which reaches for profundity but only achieves maudlin banality: "We keep hurting each other, but love still happens." Cue Céline Dion. Through February 9 at The Bang and the Clatter Theatre Company, 140 East Market Street, Akron, 330-606-5317. — Howey
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.