Private Lives One of Noel Coward's most popular plays, Private Lives has been toasted or damned by critics as a thin, idea-less confection. But in the Kansas City Actors Theatre's revival, it reveals itself as a more cruel and prickly piece of work than you might expect. It's carried off with professional elegance, with dashing tuxes and a stately set, and it's worth the time of theater hounds, anglophiles and anyone who finds bons mots and wife beating equally hysterical. As a divorced couple smashing back into each other's lives, Melinda McCrary and Robert Gibby Brand are each a tart joy, and they swap Coward's insults with jolly sadism. When they start beating the hell out of each other, though, they seem too careful, and the audience stews, stymied at whether it's possible to laugh yet still be a good person. Through Aug. 26 at the City Stage in Union Station, 18 W. Pershing, 816-235-6222. (Reviewed in our July 12 issue.) (Alan Scherstuhl)
Twice Upon a Time: The Lorax and the Emperor's New Clothes Seussical writers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the team behind this world-premiere musical, have written Broadway tunes that flatten out Dr. Seuss' poetry. With neither the words to rely on nor much set to speak of, the tale of the Lorax and his vanishing Truffula forest is left almost entirely to the imagination. Then, for reasons presumably more pragmatic than artistic, this bare-bones Lorax is paired with a lengthy, plot-stuffed take on The Emperor's New Clothes, which offers better songs, some fun performances and a more confusing narrative. Through Aug. 5 at the Coterie Theatre in Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.(Reviewed in our July 5 issue.) (Alan Scherstuhl)
2 Much Duck A couple of months back, the last time we checked in, ComedyCity's 2 Much Duck was a strong contender for Kansas City's Second Best Improv Show, whipping up a blizzard of scenes and ideas from a single audience suggestion. Never shy about staring down humanity's darkness, its players specialized in life: absurd, tragic, cruel and, always, funny. Unfortunately, this daring, discursive show never did draw that well, which is likely the reasoning behind 2 Much Duck 2.0, which dispenses with the old in favor of the older: It's now a ComedyCity-style games-and-gags show, but looser and filthier than what the venerable club offers at 5 and 7:30 p.m.. Think ComedyCity After Dark. Still, the question remains: If it doesn't look like Duck or act like Duck, what the hell is it? 10 p.m. at ComedyCity, 300 Charlotte, 816-842-2744.