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On Stage This Week 

Bountiful theater offerings await you this week

APORKALYPSE!

Convergence-continuum concludes its 2010 season with this "porkalicious world premiere" from prolific playwright, author, and company member Chris Johnston. The dark comedy emerged from a workshop Johnston completed in 2007 and somehow manages to bring together AWOL Marines, a Persian love goddess, a family pig farm, corporate-American agri-business, and accordion-toting carolers for an adults-only Christmas story set in the mountains of North Carolina. Opens December 3; read the full review here December 8. Through December 19 at The Liminis Theatre, 2438 Scranton Rd. General admission is $15; $12 for students and seniors 65+. For reservations and information call 216-687-0074 or visit convergence-continuum.org.

BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL

What could have been predictable treacle is redeemed by muscular staging from director Stephen Daldry, an often-engaging score by Elton John, and exquisite dancing by the young performer in the title role. As a result, the message — about listening to one's inner voice, even if that voice is telling you to do pirouettes — comes through in a manner both convincing and transformative. (Howey) Through December 12 at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square, 1615 Euclid Ave. Tickets are $10 to $130. Call 216-241-6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Great Lakes Theater Festival's 22nd annual production of A Christmas Carol opens December 3. Adapted by Gerald Freedman and directed by Victoria Bussert, the production is presented as a story within a story, as the fictitious Cleaveland family gathers in its Victorian parlor on Christmas Eve to read Mr. Dickens' book. Complete with theatrical special effects designed to retain a sense of the supernatural, the play blends exceptional stage craft and acting to evoke the magic of a classic ghost story. Through December 23 at Playhouse Square's Ohio Theatre. Tickets are $28 to $60; call 216-241-6000 or order online at greatlakestheater.org.

CONNI'S AVANT GARDE RESTAURANT: FEAST OF MIRACLES

At Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant, opening December 2 at Cleveland Public Theatre, the audience is transformed into invited guests; the actors themselves prepare and serve the meal; and the meal becomes part of the evening's performance. Hailed as "dinner theater of the absurd" by The New York Times, this interactive show blends ensemble theater with a serious five-course dinner in what aims to be an affectionate send-up of avant-garde pomposity. Through December 19 at CPT's Gordon Square Theatre, 6415 Detroit Ave. Tickets are $50, including five-course meal and beverage; for more information call 216-631-2727 or visit cptonline.org.

DIVIDING THE ESTATE

Writing with the rough musicality of the Texas he knew so well, Pulitzer- and Oscar-winning writer Horton Foote fashions a quietly funny yet devastating portrait of a clan intent on devouring itself from the inside. Under the pitch-perfect direction of Sarah May, an exceptional cast delivers a passel of laughs as we watch the Gordon family clamber over each other to survive. The joy of this production is listening to how the playwright weaves his characters into a glorious tapestry of deception and acquisitiveness. Even when large events occur (there are two deaths during the proceedings), these people never lose sight of their one purpose in life: padding their own nest. (Howey) Through December 12. Produced by Ensemble Theatre at the Cleveland Playhouse's Brooks Theater, 8500 Euclid Ave. Tickets are $10 to $20; call 216-321-2930 or go to ensemble-theatre.com.

JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING

TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT

A humorous retelling of the biblical story of Joseph of Canaan, this crowd-pleasing musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice opens at the Beck Center on December 3. Featuring a children's chorus, a light show, splashy costumes, and lively choreography, the production is directed by Beck veteran Scott Spence. Through January 2 at Beck Center's Main Stage, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood. Tickets are $10 to $28; call 216-521-2540 or go to beckcenter.org.

PERSONALS UNCUT: THE NEW YORK EDITION

A contemporary comedy from native Clevelander Jennifer Griffin, Personals Uncut is an uncensored look at the world of cyber dating. Back at Kennedy's Cabaret by popular demand, the two-act play features an 18-member cast portraying an assortment of characters by way of a series of monologues. Recommended for mature audiences, 14 and up. December 3, 4, 10, and 11 at Kennedy's Cabaret (beneath the lobby of the Ohio Theatre) in Playhouse Square. Tickets are $15; call 216-241-6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.

THE SANTALAND DIARIES

Who would have guessed that David Sedaris' snarky tale of a 33-year-old Macy's Christmas elf would become a holiday classic? But here it is again, produced for the fifth time in as many years by Cleveland Public Theatre. Starring actor Doug Kusak in the role of sarcastic Crumpet, the retelling of Sedaris' own Santaland experiences aims to be hilarious and heartwarming. Through December 19 at Playhouse Square's 14th Street Theatre, 2037 East 14th St. Tickets are $20 to $30. Call 216-241-6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.

THIS WONDERFUL LIFE

Can one person really make a difference in this world? Find out in this stage retelling of Frank Capra's holiday film classic. Actor James Leaming plays more than 30 characters in this one-man tour de force, including but not limited to George Bailey, Old Man Potter, and Zuzu. Directed by Peter Amster. Read the full review here December 8. Through December 19 at Cleveland Play House's Drury Theatre. Tickets start at $46; call 216-795-7000 or go to clevelandplayhouse.com.

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