Favorite

On Stage 

Capsule reviews of current area stage shows.

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. -- Christine Howey

Pete 'n' Keely -- The celebrity pairings of show-folk are endlessly fascinating to those of us who buy our socks off the sale table at Target. That's probably why James Hindman assembled this theatrical pastiche around two fictional pop singers who fall in and out of love with each other faster than they change pinky rings. As sporty confections go, Pete 'n' Keely is a promising work, focusing on "America's Singing Sweethearts," a Steve & Eydie-like duo who are reuniting on a live 1968 TV show. The setup puts many potentially humorous elements into play, but this effort by the usually adept Kalliope Stage group disappoints both musically and comically. One of the major disconnects is that neither Hindman's words nor Paul F. Gurgol's direction adequately capture the electrifying intensity of doing TV without the luxury of tape-editing and redos. And though the score is studded with pop standards, the singing is only serviceable, despite the performers' undeniable vocal strengths. Ultimately, the show sags because its stars don't develop the knowing, cynical, edgy relationship this play requires. Through August 8 at Kalliope Stage, 2134 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-0870. -- Howey

The Tempest -- A mystical and somewhat convoluted tale of magical powers, revenge, and young love, Shakespeare's Tempest is no cakewalk to produce, especially since the play begins with a furious storm that beaches a ship filled with Italian noblemen. While this production doesn't exactly strain a ligament in stretching to invent its theatrical effects, there are numerous reasons to fetch thy buns over to the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival. Robert Hawkes, as the Duke Prospero, possesses a lustrous voice that can coax a smile or tear out of many a phrase. He has a splendid compatriot in Kim Weston's sprite Ariel, who almost looks as if she's suspended from wires as she leaps to Prospero's commands. Director Ron Newell, while shaping some scenes with precision, has put too much responsibility on the audience to fill in the aura of the play. Still, this Tempest has enough kick to spice up a sultry evening. Presented free by the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival through August 14 at two locations, 877-280-1646, www.CleveShakes.org. -- Howey

Whose Mess Is This! -- In comedy, as in sports, on any given day you can be a winner or a chump. That's especially true when the comedy is partly improvised. This effort's two beer-bellied comedians, Jeff Blanchard and Don Mitri, lumbered onto the stage and performed (mostly) prepared skits and songs based on randomly selected subjects such as sex, romantic love, platonic love, and power. A lot of humor could spring from those concepts -- but not in this theater. Their incomprehensible bit about platonic love had something to do with a bed filled with money that they then replaced with stones. When it isn't being puzzling, the show features an overload of tired shtick, antique stereotype gags, and atonal songs -- although a parody titled "Everything's Beautiful at the Buffet" was cute. Blanchard and Mitri no doubt can be funny in other venues, or perhaps with this material on other evenings (although that strains credulity). But on this night, the mess was all theirs. Through August 21 at Kennedy's Down Under, 1519 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000. -- Howey

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