Through March 16
If you can see only one of the three plays covered in this review, I’d like to suggest this one that opened last night at Stages. If you are in a long-term relationship up to and including marriage, if you’ve ever been in one, or if you think you might like to be in one, this mostly-comedy by Canadian playwright Michele Rimi will make you laugh until you cry. And then, occasionally, vice versa. Long-marrieds Henry and Alice have checked into one of those sleek, sexy, modern hotels with a one-letter name to re-ignite their romance. And while the notion seems straightforward enough, both bring the residue of the past twenty-plus years into the process of re-ignition. Sexy Laundry is getting some of the loudest and longest belly laughs we’ve heard in a Houston theater in quite some time. Yet when you least expect it, the ghosts of little things done and undone remind us that marriage is a pretty dicey business after all. As directed by Stages producing artistic director Kenn McLaughlin, veterans Susan Koozin and Josh Morrison are magnificently looney and ultimately quite touching as Henry and June.
Classical Theatre Company
Through February 16
The story of Doctor Faustus, or simply Faust as the man is known in opera houses around the world, is reasonably well known. Yes, he’s the guy who sells his soul to the devil, a device that’s been used on stage and screen ever since Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe penned this version way back when. The tale and its many lessons still resonate, partly as being the absolute flipside of what happened when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. This is how it works, Marlowe seems to be telling us, if the one being tempted isn’t Jesus and just happens to say Yes. Even with updates, the language here can be dense but also rich and wonderful, and the striking production is never difficult to follow. It sticks closely to the Classical Theatre mantra of treating such plays with respect but not necessarily wearing handcuffs either. Faust makes his deal – signs a contract, no less – and then spends the rest of the play enjoying himself, until the fatal debt comes due. Philip Hays draws the most from his cast, which includes Adam Gibbs as the Not-So-Good Doctor and longtime Alley star James Belcher as a beguiling but heartless Mephistopheles. Reall now, what other kind would there be?
FREUD’S LAST SESSION
Through February 23
So, asks playwright Mark St. Germain, what would have happened had one of the 20th century’s greatest atheists, Sigmund Freud, ever crossed verbal swords with one of its greatest believers, C.S. Lewis? It might have happened in London, says St. Germain, probably with the young Lewis visiting the dying Freud about, well, something or other. And it would have to take place during the London Blitz, if only as reminder that whatever happens when you meet your Maker, if there is one, matters quite a lot. Last Session is a tour de force of cleverness and occasional profundity, though it’s unclear whether even as fictional characters either man benefits from their exchange. Still, with Alley stalwart James Black as Freud and Jay Sullivan as Lewis, this might be one of the most intellectually stunning evenings of theater we’ve seen in a long time. Tyler Marchant directs the actors within the Alley’s lovely book-lined study of a set.