The Lark -- The story of Joan of Arc -- the 15th-century teenager who led the French army to victories over England, urged on by the voices of saints -- is endlessly fascinating: Combining aspects of feminism, militarism, religious inspiration, sociological upheaval, and cross-dressing, Joan's story is one in which nearly everyone can find a cause to cheer or deride. In the Cesear's Forum production of Jean Anouilh's The Lark, Joan's brief bio is sketched out during the trial that eventually condemns her to a flaming death at age 19. Blending two adaptations of the original script by Christopher Fry and Lillian Hellman, director Greg Cesear attempts to capture a fresh perspective on the intersection of politics and morality -- not such an irrelevant issue right about now. Unfortunately, what's been created here is an oddly sterile, bloodless recitation of a story that should fairly pulse with glory and pain. Joan's confounding qualities of insolent confidence and devout humility are portrayed convincingly by chisel-jawed Laura Borgione, but the other key roles add little. Presented by Cesear's Forum through December 11 at Kennedy's Cabaret, Playhouse Square Center, 1501 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000. -- Howey
Touched: Bodies of Work -- Now that we're officially a red state, it's probably advisable to seek out theatrical works by gay and transgendered people before they are captured by evangelical morality squads, taken to an abandoned storefront on Euclid, and forced to undergo sexual reorientation and/or gender straightening. Wild Plum Productions is offering such a chance with this collection of poetry, one-acts, and songs with various GLBT spins. Although uneven at times, this evening offers some small treasures, chief among them two short plays by Linda Eisenstein that are imbued with off-center humor and surprising warmth. In "Marla's Devotion," Denise Astorino and Elizabeth R. Wood play a lesbian couple in the midst of all-too-conventional (which, of course, means oddly eccentric) growing pains. And in "A Rustle of Wings," Dan Kilbane is a simmering celestial stud who turns Brad Speck's knees to overcooked linguine. While the poetry segments are less engaging from a performance standpoint, the passionate words of Pablo Neruda exert a special hold. Katherine Harvey nicely handles the musical interludes with two transgender-themed tunes, and director Maura Haas succeeds in highlighting the simple humanity of people who are so easily demonized these days. Through November 28 at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, 216-631-2727 ext. 501. -- Howey
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