Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Amazing Grace The transcultural Rainbow's End Theatre that took over the old Theatre for Young America space at the Mission Center mall stages Shay Youngblood's adaptation of Mary Hoffman's book Amazing Grace. Heroines from Joan of Arc to Hiawatha spin out of the inventive title character's imagination -- even Peter Pan, though her classmates try to squelch that one because Grace is "black and a girl." Directed by Vernon Quinzy (who allows his cast some improvisation), this production for grade-school audiences features original Caribbean music by local composer Mark Price. Through April 15 at Mission Center, 4881 Johnson Dr. in Mission, 913-362-3030.

The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? The Unicorn Theatre's production of Edward Albee's Tony Award-winning play, directed by Ina Marlowe, is dynamic when married actors Mark and Elizabeth Robbins, playing a successful couple brought to the edge by an indiscretion, are going at it. It's something less than that when they're joined by their miscast costars. But the Robbinses' performances are not to be missed. In a show that features talk of bestiality and other possibilities afforded by the human libido, it's telling that the most shocking words come during the couple's hourlong stage fight, when the husband tells his wife, "Shut your tragic mouth." Through April 4 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main, 816-531-7529.

The Killings at Kamp Tittekaka Late Night Theatre has put aside its gender-bending interpretations of movies like Carrie for an original Ron Megee script about a serial killer terrorizing a group of horny pubescent kids at a summer camp in the late 1950s. Employing a workable blend of Late Night veterans and newcomers, Killings at Kamp Tittekaka contains such alternative-theater staples as raunchy double entendres and gratuitous scenes of the cast in its underwear. And it's no surprise that the funniest bits are the meanest and most socially inappropriate, including the thrashing of "the boy with polio" and a dig at The Passion of the Christ that would really piss off Mel Gibson. Through April 17 at Late Night Theatre, 1531 Grand Ave., 816-235-6222.

Late Night Catechism II Ruling her audience with a velvet mallet, the twisted sister of the Theater League's Late Night Catechism is reloaded and back at Union Station's City Stage for a sequel. As if all of those parochially trained people didn't get enough old-school discipline in their youth, now they pay for the privilege; it's a tad reminiscent of pleading johns and one omnipotent call girl. As in the first alternately funny and redundant go-around, the penguiny taskmaster is played with frightening but unshakable verisimilitude by Kimberly Richards. The rest of the cast is composed of those who are queuing up for tickets. Through May 2 at Union Station's City Stage, 30 W. Pershing Rd., 816-460-2020.

Tin Pan Alley J. Kent Barnhart, ably assisted by Karen Errington and Seth Golay, cedes the first act of Quality Hill Playhouse's new revue, Tin Pan Alley, to Irving Berlin and the second to Johnny Mercer. Along the way are such standards as "Moon River" and an energetic "Puttin' on the Ritz," the latter arranged to begin at a crawl and end like a locomotive. The show drags a bit when bland soprano Blanche Shively is at the mike. Errington's voice, however, gets richer with age, like a vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. Through April 4 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 West 10th St., 816-421-1700.

The Velveteen Rabbit In Gene Mackey's story-within-a-story adaptation of Margery Williams' kid-lit classic, actor Jessalyn Kincaid's performance transcends what adults expect from grown-ups gallivanting around in floppy ears and a cotton tail. A lesser talent might have been lost behind all this fluff, but Kincaid communicates the right mix of pain, patience and resolve, animating a social pecking order -- even if it's confined to a toy chest. Though there's an obligatory happy ending, the story isn't without sinister overtones. Rich Holton costars in a performance that recalls the wizard in the film version of The Wizard of Oz. Through April 10 at Theatre for Young America, 5909 Johnson Dr., Mission, 913-831-2131.

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