Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Kettlewell, who spent the opening reception walking around, smiling, shaking hands, introducing herself, thanking people for coming ... her face completely smudged in dirt. Not taking herself too seriously appears to have freed up some of the energy curators usually devote to being supersmooth, allowing it to flow instead to the dual responsibilities of displaying good art and enjoying it. Through April 30 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919. (G.K.)

Aida In the relatively new tradition of sourcing classical operas for Broadway musicals -- Madama Butterfly becomes Miss Saigon, say, or La Boheme becomes Rent -- is Elton John and Tim Rice's take on Verdi's Aida. Opera fans will recognize the story's ill-fated lovers' triangle and the theme of love triumphing over bigotry and hatred. But as much as opera purists will probably gag at the score, it's certainly an appealing one. The composers know from a good pop song, and the show's most beautiful ballads (especially as sung by Heather Hedley on the original cast recording) trump anything John wrote for The Lion King or his last several records. Through May 1 at the Music Hall, 301 W. 13th St., 816-931-3330.

The Boys Next Door It's quite rare that mentally retarded adults are portrayed onstage, much less with a dignity that doesn't come off like artificial sweetener. Set in a group home for developmentally disabled men, Tom Griffin's drama-with-comedy was a hit Off Broadway and turned into a 1996 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie (with Nathan Lane) that never felt cloying. Griffin's script works as well as it does because he doesn't flinch from making his characters both amusing and annoying -- in short, human. Through May 14 at the Bell Road Barn Players, 8700 River Park Drive in Parkville, 816-587-0218.

Go, Dog, Go! Theatre for Young America's new show is based on a vintage children's book by P.D. Eastman, whose credits include Mr. Magoo scripts and a collaboration with the genre's godfather, Dr. Seuss, on The Cat in the Hat Dictionary. Director Valerie Mackey takes advantage of the book's eye-popping illustrations and repetitious prose to create a physical romp that embraces all mixes of canine diversity. Assisting a show geared to the youngest of audiences are such TYA veterans as Parry Luellen and Chris Clegg. Through May 20 at Theatre for Young America, 5909 Johnson Dr. in Mission, 913-831-2131.

The Marriage of Figaro Sequels seem to be the predominant entrée of choice on today's cultural buffet, but they weren't invented with Star Wars. What many consider Mozart's masterpiece actually picked up where Rossini's The Barber of Seville left off. The action takes place within one crazy day taken up with the marriage of servants Figaro and Susanna and the colorful ways their cronies and nemeses scheme to ensure it doesn't happen. Making their Lyric debuts as the betrothed are baritone Brian Banion and soprano Malinda Haslett. April 29 and May 1 at the Lyric Theatre, 1029 Central, 816-471-7344.

The Robber Bridegroom Though Alfred Uhry is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Driving Miss Daisy, he has at least one musical to his credit. The title character -- a gentleman by day and a felon by night -- sounds stripped from a Grimm fairy tale, complete with an evil stepmother and her entourage of dimwitted henchmen. Jay Coombes directs a large cast, who will attack the bluegrass-influenced musical score with some good old fashioned Southern hospitality. Through May 1 at the Barn Players Theatre, 6219 Martway in Mission, 913-432-9100.

The Stinky Cheese Man Any show featuring both local diva Cathy Barnett and the theater scene's reigning teen idol, Sam Cordes, elicits buzz. Such is the case with John Glore's adaptation of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith's tweaking and blurring of such familiar characters from children's literature as Rumpelstiltskin and Cinderella, blended here into Cinderumpelstiltskin. Director Missy Koonce has the wit to pull off such tales within tales as "The Boy Who Cried Cow Patty," and William Hill's costumes are rumored to be mind-blowing. Through May 15 at the Coterie, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.

A Young Lady from Rwanda Sonja Linden's new play joins an ever-growing list of dramatic interpretations of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that give voice to both the horror and the healing. The quietly effective performance of Kenya Brome as a survivor attempting to make sense of the tragedy is occasionally undermined by Linden's resistance to a straight narrative. Instead, we get inner monologues, chats with the audience and dialogue between Brome and Paul DeBoy as the employee of a refugee center intent on shaping her writings -- and sometimes all three in the same scene. The shifting theatrical styles tend to keep the audience at a distance from any emotional payoff. Through May 8 at the Kansas City Rep at H&R Block City Stage in Union Station, 30 W. Pershing, 816-235-2700.

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