Capsule reviews of current area theater presentations.

On Stage
Dames at Sea -- Porthouse Theatre serves up an affectionate send-up of movie musicals from the 1930s and '40s -- especially the classic 42nd Street, right down to naive young Ruby (a nod to film legend Ruby Keeler), who arrives in New York with only a pair of tap shoes in her valise. Of course, she wanders into a theater where the cast is rehearsing for opening night, and, of course, she gets the standard film-musical job interview from the crusty producer: "It's a jungle out there, Broadway is the boulevard of broken dreams, you're hired." Ruby is filled with doubt, but wise chorine Joan talks her into staying. Faint with hunger, Ruby begins to teeter delicately, and a sailor who followed her to the theater catches her mid-swoon. They lock orbs. He intones: "When I look in your eyes, there's only one thing I want to do." "What?" she asks. "Sing!" "Is that all?" she probes. "No . . . dance!" (Sailor Dick stands in for Dick Powell, and chorus girl Joan represents Joan Blondell, two perennial stars of this cinema genre.) The Porthouse cast lights up the stage, and director Eric van Baars and choreographer Sean T. Morrissey keep the energy percolating. Through July 1 at Porthouse Theatre (at Blossom Music Center), 1145 West Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, 800-304-2363. -- Christine Howey

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. -- 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

Icarus -- Written in the form of a modern myth, Edwin Sanchez' Icarus depicts an impoverished sister and brother named Altagracia and Primitivo, who become squatters in a small cottage on an unnamed beach. Apparently the wheelchair-bound Primitivo is a world-class swimmer, and his facially disfigured sister is training him to swim so fast that he can "touch the sun" that bobs tantalizingly on the morning horizon. They are accompanied by a mental defective, Mr. Ellis (Clyde Simon), who tends to his stuffed cat, Betty, and is given to obsessive recitations ("I'm not staring, I'm not staring. Am I staring?"). This flawed trio is soon joined by Beau, a man in a stocking mask, who claims to have been horribly mangled in a car accident. In the first act, Sanchez and director Caleb J. Sekeres create a series of telling moments that seems to presage interesting events. But a refreshingly genuine and teasing relationship between brother and sister disintegrates in act two under the weight of too much rib-nudging symbolism. If Sanchez had pulled out all the unnecessary references to touching the sun (We get it -- it's in the freaking title!), Primi and Beau's forced swimming competition, and some clunky poetry, Icarus could have avoided another meltdown. Presented by Convergence-Continuum through July 15 at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd., 216-687-0074. -- Howey

Kiss Me Kate -- You'd think a young cast would relish the opportunity to sink its claws into such a juicy slab of theater, since it features a fangs-out, love-hate battle between the two leads, and more witty and wonderful Cole Porter tunes than you can shake a Dove Bar at. But this exercise is only haphazardly as rousing and sprightly as it ought to be. The difficulties with this Cain Park production are summed up in the second-act reprise of the lovely Porter song "So in Love," which is sung by Steel Burkhardt, playing Fred Graham with virtually no sense of place, time, or character. The handsome but largely unemotive actor plays opposite Emily Krieger, who can't seem to surmount her chirpy-cheerleader good looks and give Lilli the edge and sensuousness she needs. Since their tumultuous relationship ignites only fitfully, the entire enterprise has to work doubly hard to make things click. Now and then, a moment works beautifully -- particularly a long and complex dance built around "It's Too Darn Hot," which displays a galaxy of moves designed by choreographer Martin Cespedes. But overall, this is a Kiss you may want to wipe off on your sleeve. Through July 9 at Cain Park, Lee Rd. and Superior Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-371-3000. -- Howey

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