Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Dinner With Friends All summer long, the Kansas City Actors Theatre dedicates its ample intelligence to the contemplation of modern marriage, a subject about which everyone has an opinion but few truly understand. Their second of three shows, Donald Margulies' comic yet painful Dinner With Friends, examines two couples, one break-up and all the fallout. Fresh off a stellar Oklahoma!, New Theatre Artistic Director Dennis Hennessy directs, granting the midtown crowd a rare chance to enjoy his talents. Through September 2 at Union Station's H&R Block City Stage Theatre, 30 W. Pershing Rd., 816-235-6222. (Alan Scherstuhl)

8-Track: The Sounds of the '70s Each decade, radio's definition of "oldies" refreshes itself in accordance with the key demographic's nostalgic sweet spot. Nobody knows more about tonguing said sweet spots than the American Heartland Theatre, where this tribute, studded with more than 50 hits, is precisely calibrated to please. Through Aug. 12 at the American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999. (Alan Scherstuhl)

Oklahoma! Dozens labor to pull off the New Theatre's excellent Okie-by-Broadway dinnertime extravaganza: ace actors, singers, dancers and tech people, as well as a small orchestra, a fight choreographer and maybe someone to brush up the Fosse-fed ensemble on its rootin' and tootin'. Patrick Du Laney and Jessalyn Kincaid, Kansas City's most ferociously talented young actors, are showcased here before their largest audiences yet, and comic force Deb Bluford offers superior corn pone as Aunt Eller. What sticks, after curtain, is the image of Du Laney (as Jud) and Adam Monley (as Curly), clutched together in violence. This Oklahoma! is the best show in the territory. Through September 2 at the New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster, Overland Park, 913-649-7469. (Reviewed in our July 26 issue.) (Alan Scherstuhl)

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)

West Side Story Here, at the summer's only professional performance of what might just be the best musical ever, there is at last a clear argument that Kansas City, Missouri, School District Superintendent Anthony Amato could offer for why he gutted those after-school programs: Though some do-gooders cared enough to gather up all those troubled kids and teach 'em to spin and kick and love the dance, they still went and knifed each other the first chance they got. For the rest of us, a night at this Starlight production offers nothing less than Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and two rival gangs of pirouetting toughs, jazz-handing it out on the biggest stage in town. Through August 12 at Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, 816-363-7827. (Alan Scherstuhl)

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