Capsule reviews of current area theater presentations.

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On Stage
Grease -- When Grease first opened on Broadway in 1972, everyone had a pretty fresh memory of the hoods in their own schools a decade or so earlier, who were incessantly combing their lubed locks and readjusting their upturned collars, when they weren't filching hubcaps. But the further we get from that era, the more the show's Burger Palace Boys -- and their women's auxiliary, the Pink Ladies -- risk being transformed into pale replicas, thereby sapping energy from these icons of the Eisenhower decade. This production at the Carousel Dinner Theatre generally avoids that problem and gets many of the details right, infusing the evening with a tumultuous momentum that serves the material well. The show's energy is boosted by Robert Kovach's visually spirited set design, featuring stacked TV screens at each side of the stage that show vintage images and ad slogans ("Bosco -- That's the drink for me!"). All in all, it's a very good Grease that, with a little more edge, could be great. Through July 1 at the Carousel Dinner Theatre, 1275 East Waterloo Road, Akron, 800-362-4100. -- Christine Howey

Griller -- When it comes to easy targets for satire, they don't come much fatter than suburbia and its self-satisfied denizens. This nine-character dark comedy by playwright Eric Bogosian features one role that meanders slowly from eccentric and crotchety to truly horrifying, making this a suburban nightmare that will get under your skin and stay there. The host of the proceedings is Gussie, an aging hippie turned travel-agency exec, who has invited his family over to his McMansion for a swim in the pool and a cookout on his new $5,000 grill. Though each character is sketched with comic precision, Griller would be only a rather dark sitcom without the looming presence of Uncle Tony, a friend of Gussie's dad, who's been around the clan forever. He starts out as a harmless old curmudgeon, but reveals a haunted intensity in his eyes, the source of which slowly reveals itself over the two acts. Director Sean Derry coaxes naturalistic, uniformly superior performances out of his players -- especially Jim Viront as Tony. The overall effect Derry creates serves the material beautifully. Through July 9 at the Bang and the Clatter Theatre Company, 140 East Market St., Akron, 330-606-5317. -- Howey

A Man of No Importance -- Middle-aged Alfie, a bus-ticket-taker in 1964 Dublin, expresses his lust for life through inoffensive amateur theatricals at St. Imelda Church. But unlike the Albert Finney movie on which this musical adaptation is based, Alfie has loosened the reins on his libido and decided to mount a staging of Oscar Wilde's scandalous Salome. It becomes clear that Alfie shares a bit more with Wilde than thespian yearnings, since the well-closeted conductor has a serious crush on the young and studly driver of his bus. There are certainly rich veins of character to mine in this story, and the cast does a splendid job of presenting the material. But the book by Terrence McNally and the score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens prove to be an odd match, even though each by itself is quite good. McNally is a deft writer, and his scenes crackle with sharp dialogue. But the songs frequently do less to advance the story than to draw attention to themselves. Through June 25 at Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-2540. -- Howey

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