Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

A Dog's Life While we remain skeptical that theme — as opposed to stories or characters — is where a playwright should strike first in search of heart and humor, the American Heartland's long string of themed shows — marriage, menopause, Christmas — has boasted big hits and, in last month's Leaving Iowa, at least one critical darling. A Dog's Life is its latest low-concept stab at sitcom universality, promising whatever "foibles and follies" of dog ownership aren't copyrighted by Marmaduke. But we'd be lying if we didn't admit to having hope: The hilarious Jessalyn Kincaid, who had us eating up Leaving Iowa like Puppy Chow, is here cast as "Little Dog." Through April 22 at the American Heartland Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999. (Alan Scherstuhl)

The Full Monty Here comes the area's most ambitious community theater company, this time taking a swing at the old will-they-or-won't-they male-stripper comedy. It's the kind of ribald musical that the Barn Players have made their niche: something too rough for the New Theatre but not anything you couldn't take your mother to. Advance word is that Chris McCoy's choreography is worth the drive to Mission. Through April 29 at the Barn Players, 6219 Martway, 913-432-9100. (Alan Scherstuhl)

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters Staging this African take on the story of Cinderella for the Coterie, Brad Shaw is about as hands-on as a director can get without being creepy. He has built the puppets and designed the sets, and he handles the lights and the costumes. Adapted by John Steptoe from a Zimbabwe folk tale and concerning sweet and sour sisters hoping for a young king's proposal of marriage, it's sure to school the kids on inner versus outer beauty. The good news for grown-ups: The costumes are a riot of colors, and Darryl Stamp plays Mufaro, the girls' father. And good news for everyone: Real-life Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe seems weak, tired and ripe for a coup. Through May 20 at the Coterie Theatre in Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552. (Alan Scherstuhl)

Twelfth Night More star-crossed, cross-dressed romance from the source of all Englishness, William Shakespeare, this time staged by UMKC's remarkable graduate theater department. This, its final production of an excellent season, is directed by Theodore Swetz, so we expect ideas as exciting as the storytelling. This comedy contains any or all of the following: a jester; a shipwreck; allegations of madness; a subplot involving cross-gartered stockings; a woman who passes herself off as a man; and a sense that, when it came to plotting, the greatest genius the language has ever known often took one from Column A, one from Column B and then nicked off for the pub to pine for his Dark Lady. Through April 21 at the Helen F. Spencer Theatre at UMKC's Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry, 816-235-6222. (Alan Scherstuhl)

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