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Capsule reviews of current area theater presentations 

Girls Night, The Musical It's difficult to knit a noose in the dark, using only the odd bits of string and fabric found in one's purse. But that didn't stop my mind from wandering during the performance of this steaming roadkill. Targeted at women and using existing songs (much like the Cleveland production of Menopause the Musical, but minus the talent and wit), Girls touches on a variety of female issues, from bubble butts and droopy boobs to feminine discharge. The book by Louise Roche is larded with tired jokes and interrupted by faux-emotional scenes that land with a thud. It also has a mean streak, as the cute girls all hate clumsy and homely Kate because she's, well, clumsy and homely. The five-woman cast of this touring calamity is led by narrator-angel Sharon, the long-dead friend of four other gals, who are keeping busy as 40-year-old karaoke bar hags. The familiar tunes ("I Will Survive," "We Are Family") are sung without passion or purpose. Why the Play House decided to give this traveling yeast infection a slot in their "Summer Fun" Series is a mystery. But that whirring sound you hear is K. Elmo Lowe spinning in his grave, as the gals drunkenly tote around a vinyl blow-up guy sporting a two-foot-long erection. Through July 6 at the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave., 216-795-7000. — Christine Howey

Late Nite Catechism 2 Evidently, a Catholic school education is a bottomless reservoir of comedic material, given that so many shows have been based on those fearsome, ruler-wielding nuns. But the sister in this show, who remains nameless, isn't armed with any clickers or weapons — just an agile wit that makes her interaction with the audience frequently amusing. She doesn't hesitate to admonish audience members for untoward behavior, pointing and droning "Arm, arm, arm . . ." at anyone who dares put an arm around his or her honey. But she spends most of her time riffing on the Ten Commandments, confessionals, and whether Catholics used to abstain from meat on Fridays because a Portuguese pope wanted to help spike fish sales. Written by Maripat Donovan, this show-for-hire is part of the Cleveland Play House "Summer Fun" Series, running in tandem with the regrettable Girls Night. Catechism is performed by Lisa Buscani, a smooth and confident comedian with a good background in things religious. While there is no rolling in the aisles, the 90-minute two-act has plenty of smiles, like when she suggests a new mortal sin: owning a bobblehead doll of any member of the Holy Family. Through July 6 at the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave., 216-795-7000. — Howey

The Wiz This adaptation of the classic The Wizard of Oz first hit Broadway more than 30 years ago, updated with an all-black cast and R&B-infused songs by Charlie Smalls. The intervening years have seen this interpretation go from bold to bland, and the book by William F. Brown has not improved with age. That said, the actors who play Dot and her motley trio of traveling companions in this mixed-race Cain Park production do their utmost to wrench this material out of the mediocre. As Dorothy, Malika Petty is cute and fresh, even though her powerful voice sometimes skates slightly out of control. Burly Darryl Lewis has a compelling stage presence that nicely plays against his persona as the meek and cowardly lion. And Nathan A. Lilly exudes "heartless" soul as the ever-rusting Tinman. Once in Munchkinland, Dorothy meets the little folks, who are costumed colorfully and cleverly by Russ Borski, and are seated on rolling stools. Unfortunately, director Pierre-Jacques Brault has the diminutive ones speak in a piercing screech that is often indecipherable. Other standouts in the cast include Dan Call, who chews the scenery with relish as a drag-show-emcee version of the good witch Addaperle, and Colleen Longshaw as Glinda, who nails her solo "A Rested Body Is a Rested Mind." But Kelvette Beacham never manages to conjure the appropriate level of nastiness in the role of wicked Evillene. Through July 6 at Cain Park, corner of Superior and Lee roads in Cleveland Heights, 216-371-3000. — Howey

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