Capsule reviews of current area theater presentations.

On Stage
And Baby Makes Seven -- In Paula Vogel's play, Ruth, Anna, and Peter not only share an apartment, they also participate in a free-floating and continually shifting faux life in which stout Ruth is also Henri, the young French boy from the movie The Red Balloon, and Anna pretends to be his American counterpart Cecil. The 10-year-olds regale each other with stories of where babies come from, until daddy Peter appears to put them straight. It's not entirely clear what is causing this lesbian couple and their gay male roommate to regress and become their own children; it could be societal pressure, a tendency toward over-imaginative horseplay, or just run-of-the-mill psychosis. But the play can't help but conjure up the underlying antipathy toward gay families that distorts those natural yearnings. This production finds much of the absurd humor in the situation, but a thin and ultimately one-trick premise undermines any serious exploration of larger themes. And the audience leaves with the feeling of having witnessed a slick and streamlined near-miss. Presented by Convergence-Continuum through November 18 at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd., 216-687-0074. -- Christine Howey

Nite Club Confidential -- The 1950s had some musical high points that didn't involve Elvis and Jerry Lee, and those are captured to some degree in this mildly pleasant show at Kalliope Stage. A couple dozen lounge tunes are draped on a rickety storyline, which follows Sinatra wannabe Buck (a game but ultimately uncharismatic Steve Parmenter) as he tries to weasel his way into showbiz stardom. Schmoozing with fading chanteuse Kay Goodman (Trudi Posey in a Norma Desmondish turn) and crooning with his buddies Mitch, Sal, and Dorothy, Buck flits from one nightclub to another, searching for the big break. The show is dominated by the original songs of its creators, Dennis Deal and Albert Evans, with a few Johnny Mercer classics sprinkled throughout. And some of those original tunes work nicely, such as "The Long Goodbye," sung with rueful sadness by Kay. In a mostly workmanlike cast, Liz O'Donnell is particularly sharp and funny as Dorothy, a young singer on the rise, and Charles Statham's Mitch ignites a couple laughs with physical humor. Director Paul F. Gurgol has sport with the faux-noir tone of the work, but a dull Sal (Mark Ludden) and a weak premise make this highball less than fully intoxicating. Through December 9 at the Kalliope Stage, 2134 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-321-0870. -- Howey

Frozen -- While not exactly a walk in a pansy field, Bryony Lavery's almost three-hour dissection of three people linked by unspeakable misery has moments of humor and some interesting takes on the nature of evil. Wielding a fine-tipped brush, the playwright paints a devastating portrait of Nancy, a mother crushed by the loss of her young daughter, Rhona. The girl had been on her way to her grandmother's house in London when she was whisked up by a pedophile named Ralph, never to be seen again. We encounter Nancy (Kate Duffield) and Ralph (Sean Derry) in a series of monologues at the beginning of the evening, interspersed with the thoughts of a psychiatrist (Laurel Johnson) who is interviewing the convict for her scholarly paper on serial killing as a forgivable act. Set on starkly plain platforms in front of white walls, all the focus is on the actors as they negotiate this minefield of emotion. But a tendency for excessive explication and one off-note performance turn what could have been a powerful drama into what occasionally feels like an imaginatively staged dissertation. Still, this daring show has the earmarks of a Bang and Clatter production: It's involving even when you'd rather just turn away. Through November 12 at the Bang and the Clatter Theatre, 140 East Market St., Akron, 330-606-5317. -- Howey

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