Collisions Local playwright Bill Rogers' one-act comic tragedy pits generations against each other in the glossy nonspace of a mall food court. In smartly parallel discussions, mall kids and mall-walking old folks separately lament the state of the world, crashing into dangerous topics: Iraq, immigration, homosexuality, Vietnam, Nagasaki and why Americans are so damned fat. The youth loiter in the mall, picking at one another, contemplating boob jobs, convinced that they're all going to be rich someday. The older set are a paranoid, grumbling bunch who stink-eye the kids. The talk escalates, and when we learn that one of the seniors has just been in a car accident involving one of the young men, we know an explosion is coming. Rogers' script is sturdily built and polished, and it hums powerfully with big ideas and witty talk. Part of this year's Fringe Festival. Through Sun., July 27 at Chakra, 1308 W. 11th St. See kcfringe.org for tickets.
Improv Thunderdome and Loaded Dice Last year's winner of the Improv Thunderdome, Loaded Dice, offers up a promising new show: "Return of the Boy Band," an improvised take on a past-its-prime boy band mounting a comeback. Next comes the second season of Improv Thunderdome, Jared Brustad and Ed Dorris' once-a-month comedy smackdown. It's the best thing to happen to improv since Drew Carey's retirement from the form. The format is simple but unforgiving: Each round, three teams get half an hour to win the crowd. After the audience votes, the funniest team exults and the also-rans make excuses. This month's competitors: CCC, featuring four members of CounterClockwise Comedy; Death Rattle, a supergroup assembled by Clay Morgan; and Scriptease, a quartet of dashing youngsters who charmed their way into last season's finals. Tickets cost $8 for either show or $12 for both; 7 p.m. Sat., July 26 at the Westport Coffee House, 4010 Pennsylvania, 816-678-8886.
The Man Who Came to Dinner One of the few guaranteed comedies in the repertoire, Kaufman and Hart's 1939 farce about Sheirdan Whiteside is the kind of show a theater troupe would have to try to screw up. Whiteside, an acerbic radio personality convalescing in the home of a prosperous and conventional Ohio family, is one of the stage's great monsters. The character was inspired by New York Times theater critic Alexander Woollcott, a pompous fount of opinion and insult played here by Bill Pelletier, a nimble comic actor who should spit lines with sufficient acid. No matter how good a job Pelletier and company manage, the unfamiliar should check the classic 1942 film, featuring so grand a scornful rasp from Monty Woolley that those Family Guy people stole it for their evil baby. Through July 27 at the Barn Players, 6219 Martway, Mission, 913-432-9100.
Translations Brian Friel's drama of an Irish village in 1833, on the eve of England's "standardization" of Gaelic place names, enjoys a playful, powerful production from the Actors Theatre of Kansas City. The play crackles with ideas and is abuzz with language; the story wraps its theme like flesh wraps bone. Director Mark Robbins introduces a large cast that swiftly bares each character's heart and seems to capture the soul of a community within the first act climax. The rest of the show doesn't quite reach this peak again, but the production remains arresting. Much of it concerns a romance between an English lieutenant (Nathan Darrow) and a local woman (Kate Gilchrist Langley) who share no common tongue. Though it's no shock how things will end between them, audiences might be surprised by the play's thoughtful conclusion, with the final scenes preoccupied with myth and meaning rather than clear resolutions. As is often the case with the Actors Theatre, most of the cast is in peak form. Through Aug. 31 at Union Station's City Stage, 18 West Pershing, 816-235-6222. Reviewed in our July 17 issue.