Cagelove — In this hash of a script by Christopher Denham, Katie and Sam are a young couple teetering on the brink of matrimony. But their life is clouded by the fact that Katie was raped by her ex-boyfriend, a male model whom she's photographed. Sam, meanwhile, is a successful white-collar computer dude with a mean jealous streak. In a series of clipped and sometimes abrupt scenes, we learn that Sam has been following Katie and discovered that she's been visiting her ex. This sends Sam into an ugly southbound spiral, which includes a brief grab-and-grope with Katie's not-so-well-intentioned sister, Ellen (a professional but doomed-by-the-script Dawn Youngs). The acting by the two principals feels exhausted. Rachel Lones, as Katie, mumbles and sighs her lines. Scott Shriner never finds a through-line for his character. The production bears little of Bang and Clatter's incisive style and attention to detail. Sean Derry's cramped and dingy set design appears inappropriate for an aspiring corporate executive and a big-time artist. And director Sean McConaha's pacing is glacial. The scene breaks are interminable. Even light cues are fumbled. Bang and Clatter is taking on an enormous challenge, mounting 16 shows a year in two locations miles apart. Let's hope that the increase in quantity doesn't force a reduction in quality, as it seems to have done in Cagelove. Through May 24 at the Bang and the Clatter Theatre, 140 E. Market St., Akron, 330-606-5317. — Christine Howey
The Cleveland Plays: Part I: Migration — Three otherwise-talented local playwrights and theater artists — Eric Coble, Nina Domingue, and Eric Schmiedl (who also directs) — have joined forces to write the first in a series of plays that purport to grapple with challenges facing our fair burg. In this opening effort, the problem is the brain drain of people leaving town for what they believe to be more promising, career-enhancing destinations. The result is a mishmash: truncated stories of two families, one in Slavic Village and one in Aurora. Fran (Leslie Ann Price) and Lenny (George Roth) are suburban empty nesters who are going through predictable midlife crises. Meanwhile, in the inner city, Nisha (Domingue) is pregnant and wants to stay in Cleveland, but hubby Luke (Robert Williams) has a hot job waiting for him in Columbus. These not particularly gripping micro-dramas are intertwined with the quasi-mystical appearance of Moses Cleaveland (Michael Regnier), the guy who started this whole mess. Having nailed down their thematic assignment with dutiful literalness, the troika of playwrights proceeds to craft the script with all the subtlety of a fifth-grade "Learn About Your City" primer. Combine that with juvenile humor — Moses wants to "get on TV," so he tries to climb on top of a bank of monitors at Best Buy — and unbelievable characterizations, and Migration could inspire dreams of relocation all by itself. Through June 1, produced by Dobama Theatre at The Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave., 216-932-3396. — Howey
Mr. Marmalade — This play by Noah Haidle centers on a four-year-old girl named Lucy who's armed with the vocabulary and wit of Paula Poundstone. Left alone by her working single mom, Sookie, Lucy conjures visits by imaginary Mr. Marmalade, a busy businessman, who squeezes in play sessions with Lucy when he can. Mr. M. has a lot of problems, including a sadistic streak and some serious substance-abuse and kinky-sex issues. On the surface, it's a funny premise. But in Haidle's writing, all the humor is predicated on the dissonance of having adult observations coming out of a child's mouth. As a result, Lucy's too-hip-for-the-playpen personality quickly becomes predictable. Wes Shofner, as Mr. Marmalade, is a capable performer, but he's old enough to be Lucy's grandfather, which adds an uncomfortable dynamic to Lucy's fantasy world. If the younger Stuart Hoffman, who plays Marmalade's personal assistant, Bradley, had switched roles with Shofner, it would have made more sense from Lucy's perspective. And some of the later events — when Lucy and Marmalade run off to Cabo San Lucas, get married, and have a child — might have resonated more strongly. Even so, the players, under the direction of Arthur Grothe, give this flawed material their all, including Lauren B. Smith as Lucy, who's energetic and extremely lithe. But she never finds a deeper truth in the little girl — if there is one somewhere in this script. Through May 28, produced by Convergence-Continuum at The Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd., 216-687-0074. — Howey
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