Favorite

Capsule reviews of current area theater presentations. 

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

Pack of Lies -- There are falsehoods aplenty in this play by Hugh Whitemore. Based on a real spy case in 1960s Britain, it traces the story of Barbara and Bob Jackson, simple London suburbanites who are suddenly thrust into a cold-war espionage dust-up. The intrigue involves their best friends and neighbors of five years, Helen and Peter Kroger, who, unbeknown to the Jacksons, are KGB agents. In the first act, the playwright fashions a credible friendship between the Jacksons and the Krogers, who claim to be from Canada. Helen Kroger, boisterous and effusive, is the flip side of placidly passive Barbara, but it's easy to see how the two could forge a bond of trust and confidentiality. But that connection is ripped asunder when Stewart, a Brit intelligence officer, arrives to set up a stakeout in the Jacksons' house, where he and his minions can spy on the spies across the street. By intercutting dialogue scenes with mini-soliloquies from various characters, Whitemore creates a fascinating portrait of a quiet, predictable life gone horribly wrong. Director Greg Cesear brings beautifully modulated performances out of his talented cast. This subtle play goes beyond its international-spy-thriller trappings to ask a profound question: Is real friendship based on truth or appearances? And are we better off not knowing? Presented by Cesear's Forum through December 9 at Kennedy's Down Under, 1518 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000. -- Howey

RFK -- Playwright and solo performer Jack Holmes reaches back to the tumultuous '60s and brings Robert Kennedy back to life. And while his impersonation is gawkily endearing, the play itself lacks the passion that drove this complex man in directions both admirable and unfortunate. Robert participated in a number of historically significant events (the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the roiling racial unrest in major cities and college campuses), and though the script touches all these hot buttons, it feels inevitably sketchy, since there is so much ground to cover. One result of this attention-deficit approach to storytelling is that all sides are slighted at the expense of a brisk pace. RFK was always considered a ruthless power player, but we get little sense of that here. Most of the play is involved with Robert's more honorable achievements, with large portions of the proceedings playing like stump speeches. Actor Holmes succeeds in making Bobby approachable, but lacks the irrepressible energy that the real Robert exuded when addressing crowds. Through November 19 at the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave., 216-795-7000. -- Howey

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