On Stage

Capsule reviews of current area stage shows.

La Turista -- Almost 40 years ago, Sam Shepard wrote La Turista, a play that takes place in two temporary rooms inhabited by a young, white American couple adrift in the world and beset by difficulties both physical (sunburn, raging dysentery) and cultural. Written a decade before Shepard's better known plays (True West, Buried Child), this script is a hugely self-indulgent and determinedly mysterious collection of symbols and swirling speechifying. But as performed by the ever-courageous Convergence-Continuum group, it never fails to engage, even as it confounds with its oblique approach. As with all Convergence-Continuum works, the pace never flags, and the surprises pile one atop the next. Director Clyde Simon charges Shepard's passionate language --and frequently overlong perorations -- with a physical immediacy that commands attention, even as the mind scrambles to catch up. Indeed, almost every square inch of the tiny Liminis theater space is used by Simon's energetic cast, as they leave none of Shepard's symbolic stones unturned. Presented by Convergence-Continuum through September 25 at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd., 216-687-0075. -- Christine Howey

Midnight Martini Show -- There is a strange attraction toward Frank Sinatra's loosely organized Rat Pack and their infamous, loopily disorganized Las Vegas shows that ran for a few golden years back in the 1960s. Frank, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. mixed pop songs, corny jokes, and Johnnie Walker into an irreverent, hip evening that seemed to come so easy to the performers. What the Midnight Martini Show at Pickwick & Frolic proves is that it ain't easy at all. This one-hour set attempts to capture the bored-with-it-all sophistication and the slightly inebriated intimacy that the Rat Packers achieved, but it fails on several counts, from the overly eager performers to the florid songs and lame drinking jokes. Which is not to say that this no-cover show doesn't provide a convenient glide path for those who are downtown on a Friday or Saturday night and want to do something else before heading home. Indeed, some of the American standards are sung well enough. Now the task is to find directors and performers who understand that being casually funny while delivering classic tunes takes a lot of work. Or maybe a whole lot of real drinking. Fridays and Saturdays at Pickwick & Frolic, 2035 East 4th St., 216-241-7425. -- Howey

Oliver Twisted -- It has been claimed that there's a gene in some people's DNA spiral that compels them to seek out risky, potentially harmful activities, such as rock-climbing, deep-sea diving, and parking at expired meters in Cleveland Heights. True to their risk-adoring genes, the seven-member group titled Oliver Twisted (made up of former members of the now-defunct Second City Cleveland) does audience-inspired material exclusively, without the safety net of scripted modules. And thanks to a fortunate blending of physical types and personalities among the performers -- along with their determined insistence on yanking every loose comedic thread -- this is an improv experience that will leave you laughing far more often than wincing. The troupe's resident nutcase, Randall Harr, is a fairly normal-looking fellow who transforms into a maniacally, often hilariously intense embodiment of whatever animal, vegetable, or mineral he's been assigned. Mondays at Hilarities Comedy Club at Pickwick & Frolic, 2035 E. 4th St., 216-736-4242. -- Howey