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.

Henry V With its themes -- an undue war to divert attention from domestic affairs, disdain for the French -- Shakespeare's history play Henry V couldn't be more topical if Condoleezza Rice played the female lead. Usurping the Missouri Repertory Theatre's main house, the production features UMKC Theatre Department grad and undergrad students; at the helm of this tale of royal privilege and its resulting carnage is the department's newest professor, Barry Kyle. His heady résumé includes shows at London's Globe Theatre and an all-female take on Richard III for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Through April 18 at UMKC's Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry, 816-235-2700.

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.

Menopause the Musical Until the last twenty minutes of what is essentially a musical-comedy salute to hot flashes, the jokes in this production are stale or stolen outright. And reading between the lines reveals not-so-funny insight into such social embarrassments as water retention and marital infidelity. So it is without warning that the show later takes a measurable turn into the joys of self-pleasure. The cast, especially Chavez Ravine, is pardonable, managing to reheat these leftovers. With her tangy, delicious Tina Turner take-off, Ravine -- a terrific singer with mammoth stage presence -- steals the show without an ounce of regret. Through May 2 at American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999.

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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