Oliver Twisted -- It has been claimed that there's a gene in some people's DNA spiral that compels them to seek out risky, potentially harmful activities, such as rock-climbing, deep-sea diving, and parking at expired meters in Cleveland Heights. True to their risk-adoring genes, the seven-member group titled Oliver Twisted (made up of former members of the now-defunct Second City Cleveland) does audience-inspired material exclusively, without the safety net of scripted modules. And thanks to a fortunate blending of physical types and personalities among the performers -- along with their determined insistence on yanking every loose comedic thread -- this is an improv experience that will leave you laughing far more often than wincing. The troupe's resident nutcase, Randall Harr, is a fairly normal-looking fellow who transforms into a maniacally, often hilariously intense embodiment of whatever animal, vegetable, or mineral he's been assigned. Mondays at Hilarities Comedy Club at Pickwick & Frolic, 2035 E. 4th St., 216-736-4242. -- Howey
Steel Magnolias -- Almost 20 years ago, playwright Robert Harling attempted to capture the essence of women's emotional networking in this now-familiar story of six gals in a backwater Louisiana town who laugh, cry, and tease (hair and each other). Set in a carport turned hair salon, the comical yet touching play is a theatrical gold mine for actors and a director who can craft sharp characters and ignite some sparks in this classically feminine environment. Unfortunately, the troupe assembled for this task falls flatter than a botched perm on a humid August afternoon. Director Sarah May, an accomplished and perceptive director who has helmed many outstanding productions over the years, here turns Steel Magnolias into droopy dandelions. Perhaps the best advice regarding this production -- in an otherwise outstanding season at Beck Center -- is given by the character Ouiser, who says she doesn't attend plays because "I can sleep for free at home." Either way, sweet dreams. Through June 27 at Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-2540. -- Howey
Godspell -- Back in 1971, John-Michael Tebelak put together this rock opera as a contemporary retelling of many parables from the Book of Matthew, infusing them with the energy and devotion that they no doubt engendered when they were first conceived. In this Porthouse production, directed with relentless verve by Terri Kent, Jesus's teachings fairly leap off the stage. Of course, everyone views the Bible differently, and if you're expecting a musical rendition of the Son of God condemning homosexuals, you've slipped into the wrong revival meeting. By throwing together a collection of vaudeville gags, anachronistic references, improvisations, and a few DT-like trembling fits, Kent simply refuses to let the interest wane, even when you really don't want to hear yet another life lesson. Through June 26 at Porthouse Theatre, 1145 Steels Corners Rd. (Blossom Music Center), Cuyahoga Falls, 800-304-2363. -- Howey
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