Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Art If a rich yet unpretentious collector friend pays a fortune for a white-on-white canvas that the experts have dubbed art, who's to argue? Well, his two best chums, for a start. Such is the first coat of Yazmina Reza's wonderful Art, which won the 1998 Best Play Tony and the 1996 Olivier for Best Comedy. Other topics Reza pricks us with include the monetary value of art versus its aesthetic worth and how friendships can be questioned by cultural tastes. As witty and profane as it is, the play is equally enjoyable as a catalyst for discussion. Through July 31 at Northland Actors Ensemble, Oak Park High School, 825 N.E. 79th Terr., 816-374-4773, www.northlandactorsensemble.org.

Disaster '74 Late Night Theatre's long-delayed promise to cruise through the disaster-movie genre of the 1970s has finally set sail. Much of the show is humorous, especially the individual actors' takes on their characters' idiosyncrasies. It's hard to resist, say, Gary Campbell's Kidney Transplant Girl or Philip blue owl Hooser's rendering of The Poseidon Adventure's Shelley Winters, a role in which he literally immerses himself. The show has all the signature ingredients of the traditional Late Night ambrosia (especially the special effects), though it doesn't completely jell. Still, director and writer Ron Megee demonstrates the courage of his zany convictions, proving that enthusiasm is preferable to apathy. Through August 28 at Late Night Theatre, 1531 Grand, 816-235-6222.

Forbidden Broadway The Theater League is resuscitating this sendup of Broadway with a mix of parodies old and new at Union's Station's City Stage. Lampooning stage icons from Ethel Merman to the dark, ambisexual revival of Cabaret are Forbidden Broadway veterans such as Cathy Barnett and Don Richard. They've all done the show for many years but are still expert at milking laughs from such things as the poverty chic of Les Miserables. With John Michael Zuerlein and Sarah Crawford. Through July 25 at Union Station, 30 West Pershing Rd., 816-460-2020.

My Favorite Year One of the funniest films of the 1980s was My Favorite Year, wherein a nebbishy writer for a 1950s variety show is given the impossible task of keeping that week's guest star - an Errol Flynn-like swashbuckler named Alan Swann - off the booze and the chorus girls. Seussical composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty turned it into an endearing Broadway musical a decade later that featured SCTV alum Andrea Martin. For the Barn Players' production, Mark Swezey directs Patrick LeWallen as the besieged writer and Darin Parker as Swann, played onscreen with vodka-soaked panache by Peter O'Toole. Through August 1 at the Barn Players, 6219 Martway in Mission, 913-432-9100.

Secrets Every Smart Traveller Should Know For the most devastatingly witty song about travel, one must go back to Noel Coward's "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" from his musical Sail Away. But this revue about the perils of getting away from it all offers sufficient chuckles. With songs credited to more than a dozen composers, director Brad Zimmerman's Secrets lampoons such inevitabilities as lost luggage, snippy airline personnel and bad cruise-ship entertainers. Those whose trips always seem to go perfectly might feel above it all, but the rest of us will have an "aha" moment or two. Through July 25 at Chestnut Fine Arts Center, 234 N. Chestnut St. in Olathe, 913-764-2121.

Seussical The Coterie's inventive director, Jeff Church, and a perfectly cast troupe of performers have delightfully remedied Seussical's reputation as one of Broadway's costliest flops. As the U.S. premiere of a show now and forever retooled for young audiences (and their lucky elders), it has virtuosity stamped throughout. Aiding the musical blending of such Dr. Seuss characters as Horton the Elephant and the Cat in the Hat are Jennifer Myers Ecton's daffy costumes and Gary Wichansky's vibrant set. Among the uniformly colorful cast, it's not hard to root for Gabe Goodman, who gives one of the surest performances you're likely to see from a sixth-grader. Through August 8 at the Coterie Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.

Take Me Out With the Royals in the gutter, baseball fans might be more inspired taking in the New York Empires in the Unicorn Theatre's excellent production of Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out. Supposing what might happen among the teammates of a superstar player who nonchalantly announces that he's gay, Greenberg's play also intricately splices in issues of race and power and dissects America's tendency to blindly follow role models. Among the large cast, Edouard Fontaine, Will Fowler and Dean Vivian stand out for the ease with which they inhabit their characters. Through August 1 at Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main, 816-531-7529.


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