Fletcher & Zenobia Save the Circus
The playful Live Action Set brings vivacious physicality to the characters of Edward Gorey's children's book and its illustrations by Victoria Chess. Though the actors pull out all the stops and glory in their quirky clown-like portrayals, the cavernous Mill City Museum venue swallows up much of the dialogue, making it difficult to decipher whether their collaborative script adaptation coheres or not. But playing railroad trains and animals is a sure bet for laughs. Best of all, musicians Chris Hepola, Steven Hobert and Paul Fonfara capture the circus spirit. More show information.
- JOHN TOWNSEND
When solo actor Mike Speller takes the stage, he reminds us that subtlety and suspense in the service of revealing character are what really and truly scare us out of our wits. As he breathes life into four short, gripping pieces by Saki, W.W. Jacobs, Ambrose Bierce and Ray Bradbury, the audience is made to face their own inner shadows. The demonic power of a monkey's paw and the psychic damage caused by a trick played on a stranger or a loved one are related, to riveting and numinous effect. More show information.
- JOHN TOWNSEND
Angelina Jolie is a Zionist Whore! or, Plan 9 from Baghdad
James Vculek writes and directs this three-scene comedy about a video-making unit of Iraqi insurgents. Cell leader Samir (Ari Hoptman) is incompetent and gets no respect from Bashir (Joshua Will) or Margaret (Catherine Johnson Justice), who wants to be called by a cooler insurgent name. Things come to a head when they attempt to kidnap an American TV journalist but nab the wrong guy (Alex Cole). "Angelina Jolie" is "America's Funniest Home Videos" meets the Keystone Kops. The ambitious show, a revival, mines cultural confusion for comedy and has a nice dig at director Ed Wood. More show information.
- ROHAN PRESTON
Present State Movement delivers five solo perspectives seemingly drawn from vivid dreams and feral fantasies. Marta Ladjanszki's "ONE," performed by Tamara Ober, is a striking, carnivalesque meditation on physical illusions, while Leslie O'Neill's "These Years" offers a shimmery glimpse into time's cruel passage. The program also includes Laura Selle Virtucio's "Her Kind," a fiery example of shadowy shape-shifting, created with Laura Miller; Nic Lincoln's divine equine revelation in "Dressage" (choreographed by Judith Howard), and Amy Behm-Thompson's lush "secondaries," which casts one final spell before this thoroughly magical show ends. More show information.
- CAROLINE PALMER
The Smothers Brothers Grimm
Joshua Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen's concoction fractures some fairy tales by mangling them through film and TV characters. Hence, Laurel and Hardy are Hansel and Gretel. Lucille Ball plays Rapunzel, stuck in her tower by Ricky Ricardo. Actors Eric Webster and Shanan Custer join Scrimshaw and Weinhagen in this lampoon, which also features a self-assured young Andrew Moy. It's clever stuff, working with a familiar formula but showing inventive takes -- such as a prince whose kisses put Sleeping Beauty back to sleep. More show information.
- GRAYDON ROYCE
If you miss Amy Seham's brilliant "Hamlet" retelling because you think modern Shakespeare plays are too trendy, you might have to question the meaning of your life. Holden Roy Jr. (think: Hamlet), susceptible to existential crises, finds the importance of life and family at question when his mother, Trudy (Gertrude), puts his brilliant but sick poet father Holden Roy Sr. in a nursing home for Alzheimer's patients. The smart, postmodern script is matched by a few of its actors, too -- particularly the young leads Christian DeMarais (Holden Jr./Hamlet) and Nicole Du Cane (Olivia/Ophelia). More show information.
- JESSICA BAKEMAN