Presently docked at the Great Lakes Theater Festival, Thunder Knocking on the Door is a gaudy showboat, a blues musical paddling its way to Broadway with the ferocity of a heat-seeking torpedo. Colored lights frantically blink each entrance and exit like a Christmas tree having a nervous breakdown. Swivel-hipped actors/blues singers take turns gobbling their musical exaltations like privileged Thanksgiving turkeys disguised in peacock feathers to avoid the slaughter. Inevitably, it all starts to blur and crumble like an aged reel of nitrate film. We begin to wonder how an event that started as sleek as Lena Horne at the Copa could turn into a 300-pound floozie. Perhaps it's too eager to please, has too many feathers, strives for too much synthetic joy, and is determined to light every darkened corner with sunshine. Too much sugar turns the blues pink. Through October 31 at the Ohio Theatre. Reviewed October 21.
This Bad Epitaph Theater production by Wendy MacLeod is a clever sleight of hand, updating and gentrifying the old morality play Everyman as reimagined by the writers of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Here that symbol of eternal humanity is Avery Bly (Sarah Morton). Instead of the long-ago pastoral landscapes, we are taken through 1989 San Francisco. Director Roger Truesdell causes his cast to sizzle and reach new highs in their careers. Morton gives a performance of pure oxygen: She's a WASPy variation on Woody Allen. Equaling her in charismatic intensity is David Hansen. Thomas Cullinan, last year's Hamlet, turns anal retentiveness into a trendy new spectator sport. Sly magic makers have transformed this old period piece into a spin on the latest Disneyland thrill ride. Sin. Inside gallery. Through October 31. Reviewed October 14.