Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Affluenza! High praise goes to director Mark Ciglar and the bountifully gifted cast of James Sherman's smart, tart comedy about the poisonous effects of having too much money. Sherman's choice to write the show in rhyming couplets, à la Moliere, is distracting only until the ear gets used to it -- then it becomes damned clever. Of the uniformly winning cast, Sean Grennan's performance is particularly great, rich with wit, brattiness and, when it's least expected, earned pathos. Jennifer James Bradshaw is terrific, too, recalling the late, great Judy Holiday in the classic Born Yesterday. Through Feb. 20 at American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999.

Cabaret This exceptional musical by Kansas City native John Kander and Fred Ebb, who died last year, will certainly take on a darker patina as staged by the Cultural Arts department of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. The gloriously decadent Berlin nightlife of the early 1930s -- relished to a fault by Sally Bowles (Julie Shaw) and her co-workers and bisexual playmates at the Kit Kat Club -- becomes an ominous sign of things to come as the city becomes swept up in the rantings of a certain dangerously charismatic demagogue. A JCC production of Cabaret a few years ago gave the already frightening show a chilling immediacy. Jan. 15-23 at the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th St. in Leawood, 913-327-8040.

Flaming Idiots Despite a notorious, between-courses murder a couple of years ago, the New York City restaurant where it happened still boasts a nearly impenetrable waiting list. With due sympathy to the unlucky diner, it's a great premise for a play. Tom Rooney's door-slamming farce shifts the story to Miami, where an upscale new health-food eatery is floundering while a competitor across town -- where a mobster was slain -- can't turn its tables fast enough. What if, Rooney proposes in his New American Comedy Festival Award-winning play, the former owners staged a similar shootout? Jan. 21-Feb. 6 at Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 New Hampshire, 785-843-7469

Frederick Douglass: Deliverance From Chains Gene Mackey's memory play is about the title character's journey from slave to statesman. The drama is set in a re-creation of Douglass' final home in Washington, D.C., where the civil rights pioneer (Danny Cox) reminisces with Helen Pitts (Sheryl Bryant), his second wife, and a group of young history buffs. Among the themes he addresses are abolition, black employment obstacles and the controversy surrounding his marriage to Pitts, who happened to be white. Jan. 25-Feb. 20 at Theatre for Young America, 5909 Johnson Drive in Mission, 913-831-2131.

Glengarry Glen Ross Any theater company kicking off the new year with a Pulitzer Prize-winning David Mamet play deserves attention. The Olathe Community Theater continues its 31st season in bed with a predatory pack of salesmen whose well-being pivots on how well they lie, cheat and steal. It's as dark and twisted as a Francis Bacon painting. The dialogue is mellifluous, with a style of bruising verbiage and profanity that former New York Times critic Frank Rich called "hot jazz and wounding blues." See it before the high-profile Broadway revival this spring with Alan Alda and Liev Schreiber. Jan. 14-29 at the Olathe Community Theater, 500 East Loula, 913-782-2990.

The Molire One Acts Sganarelle is the hottest name on the street -- well, at least the streets around the University of Missouri-Kansas City Theater Department and Union Station, where the latter's City Stage Theatre hosts the former's celebration of Moliere's most lovable rogues. In "The School for Husbands," Sganarelle is a 17th-century bourgeois prig and misogynist whose interest in a young lady isn't returned. The same name is given to a loutish and paranoid married man of the provinces in "The Imaginary Cuckold." Though both were written between 1660 and 1662, the pieces confirm why Moliere's romantic entanglements could be outtakes from Jen Chen's Night Ranger column. Jan. 28-Feb. 12 at the UMKC Theater Department at Union Station's H&R Block City Stage Theatre, 816-460-2020 or 816-235-6222.

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