Bright Ideas Despite a talented cast and director, Eric Coble's black comedy about the lengths to which desperate parents go to get their toddlers into the right preschools is a pile of irrelevant twaddle. The first act sets up a farcical homicide with a respectable display of energy (one that the script doesn't deserve). The second act deflates like a leaky balloon; it's neither bright nor brimming with ideas. Through Sept. 26 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main, 816-531-7529.
Cinderella (La Cenerentola) Every Cinderella story requires fork-tongued stepsisters, a dashing prince and a heap of stage magic. For the story to be effective, we must believe in the transformations of a pumpkin into a coach, mice into valets, and the dowdy title character into a resplendent vision. Opening the Lyric Opera's new season is Gioachino Rossini's take, La Cenerentola. Making her U.S. debut as the chameleonic heroine is mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, whose performance in the opera is said to have made her a household name in Europe. Through Sept. 26 at the Lyric Theatre, 1029 Central, 816-471-7344.
First Degree Burn or Beyond the Pale Lebanon, Missouri, native Lanford Wilson populates his plays with Midwesterners living on society's margins. Though his 1979 Pulitzer was for Talley's Folly, many are drawn to his newer plays, including Burn This, which opens Friday at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. When the play rattled Broadway in the late 1980s, its electricity came not only from the writing but also from its leading players, John Malkovich and Joan Allen. The latter won a Tony Award for her unforgettable performance. Mark Robbins directs this UMKC Department of Theatre production, which features as Pale, the troubled male antagonist, Edouard Fontaine, who knocked one out of the park this summer in the Unicorn's Take Me Out. Through Oct. 9 at Grant Hall, 5228 Charlotte, 816-235-6222.
Fully Committed Former Kansas Citian Jason Chanos returns to the multifaceted role he originally played at the Unicorn Theatre in the summer of 2002. He mainly plays Sam, a struggling New York actor who pays the bills by serving as a trendy restaurant's reservations agent. Where the comedy gets interesting is in Chanos' metamorphosis into more than three dozen other characters seemingly hellbent on making Sam's life miserable. How desperate do people get to eat at the hottest spot in Manhattan? How do the restaurant staff cope with people at their worst? How does Sam manage to stay human through it all? Chanos deftly answers these and other questions. Through Oct. 17 at the American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change The core of most romantic partnerships is aptly personified in the title of this witty musical revue by Joe DiPietro that's been playing nonstop in New York since 1996. Though its premise is strictly (and rather primly) heterosexual, the issues aren't necessarily -- awful first dates, in-laws, newborns, pick-up techniques for randy senior citizens. Sarah Young, Rick Bixler, Jennifer Wesco and Michael Karraker play out the mating games under Terrance McKerr's direction. Sept. 24 through Oct. 10 at the Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 New Hampshire in Lawrence, 785-843-7469.
Lone Star and Laundry & Bourbon Two plays in one is the selling point for James McClure's comedic visit to Texas. In the first, Lone Star, a trio of good ol' boys swig a few beers while rehashing their exploits in Vietnam and their current battles with wives and girlfriends. The ladies are granted equal time In the second half, Laundry & Bourbon, in which spirits also loosen a few tongues. It sounds racy, but the Olathe Community Theater says the show, directed by Geff Moyer, is suitable for all ages. Through Oct. 2 at the Olathe Community Theater, 500 East Loula, 913-782-2990.
Songs From the Silver Screen The movie music wafting about the Quality Hill Playhouse takes a few unexpected detours for a show called Songs From the Silver Screen. From vintage movie musicals like Broadway Melody of 1938, artistic director J. Kent Barnhart culls such classics as "You Made Me Love You," plus a healthy dose of Gershwin. There also are tunes from movies with music that weren't musicals, such as the eternally kitschy Connie Francis hit "Where the Boys Are." Starring with Barnhart are Blanche Shively, Cindy Baker and James Wright. Through Oct. 10 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., 816-421-1700.
The Spitfire Grill The independent film The Spitfire Grill made such a splash at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival that it sold for a festival record of $10 million and went on to win the coveted Audience Award. The national buzz on James Valcq and Fred Alley's musical adaptation has been so positive that it's surprising it's taken this long for a local company to mount it. That task falls to director Brad Zimmerman at the Chestnut Fine Arts Center, where songs like "Come Alive Again" accent the story of a young female ex-con (and there aren't enough plays about female ex-cons) who settles into the job of a waitress in a small town in Maine. Among the cast are Tara Varney and Bonita Hanson, who's recently back from a gig in New York City. Through Oct. 3, Chestnut Fine Arts Center, 234 N. Chestnut in Olathe, 913-764-2121.
Stop Kiss In light of William Jewell College's refusal to add sexual orientation to the school's anti-discrimination language, an on-campus production of Diana Son's gay-themed play Stop Kiss should be interesting. Student Rachel Guffie chose it as her senior production, an assignment that requires her to be ambidextrous; she directed, designed and appears in the show, a humane drama about two young women who happen to fall in love with each other. Their love is tested when they're assaulted on a New York City street. School officials read the play before giving the OK. Heightening the play's relevance, Guffie says a couple of the posters promoting the show have been torn down. At 8 p.m. Sept. 24 and 25 at William Jewell College's Peters Theater, 500 College Hill in Liberty, 816-415-7590.