Beauty and the Beast Credit: Sin Bozkurt

Beauty and the Beast Married performance artists Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser, billing themselves as Oneofus, spend a none-too-subtle evening drawing parallels between the titular 18th-century fairy tale and their own romantic relationship. Muz, a burlesque performer and onetime Miss Coney Island, is the beauty, while Fraser, a self-described disability artist with thalidomide-induced phocomelia (he calls his arms “small and perfectly deformed”) is, discomfitingly, the beast. For 80 minutes they alternately enact the fairy tale, ably assisted by clever puppetry and cunning scenic design, and recount the course of their romance. Neither story digs much below the surface, and neither performer has adequate chops to command a stage as large as MCA’s. By the finale they’re nude and thrashing away in semi-simulated coitus. Bully for them. —Justin Hayford

The Complete DeathsCredit: Nicolai Khalezin

The Complete Deaths Toby (Toby Park) has had enough of “shallow buffoonery.” He’s decided to get serious and confront his “well-fed bourgeois” audience (us) with not one, not 20, but all 74 onstage deaths in Shakespeare’s plays—from poor Matthew Gough, who buys it at the hands of a mob in Henry VI, Part II, to pretty much everybody in Hamlet. Of course, things don’t go as planned. The three other members of Brit theater troupe Spymonkey can’t take Toby’s newfound earnestness, and, besides, they’ve got agendas of their own: Aitor Basauri wants to work with bubbles, Petra Massey wants to play Ophelia, and Stephan Kreiss wants to play with Petra. The result is loads and loads of shallow buffoonery. At over two hours, the joke goes on too long, but there’s plenty of high-quality ridiculousness here, and no compunctions whatever about getting us to laugh at waggling penises or flies crawling up people’s noses. —Tony Adler

PygmalionCredit: Johnny Knight

Pygmalion Remy Bumppo Theatre Company’s superbly acted production of George Bernard Shaw’s brilliant 1913 comedy bristles with intelligence, passion, and hilarity. Refreshingly free of the sentimentality of the play’s well-known 1956 musicalization My Fair Lady, Shawn Douglass’s in-the-round staging illuminates the complex, fiery relationship between curmudgeonly phonetics professor Henry Higgins and his pupil Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney street urchin who wants to learn to speak “like a lady” so she can get ahead in class-conscious Edwardian England. As Eliza’s improved language skills stimulate her native intelligence, the play charts her painful path to emotional and intellectual liberation. Kelsey Brennan sparkles as Eliza—a model of the “New Woman” for whom Shaw and other progressive thinkers advocated at the dawn of the 20th century. Nick Sandys is a dynamic Higgins, whose admiration for his “creation” forces him to confront his own shortcomings, and David Darlow is wonderful as Eliza’s raffish rogue of a father. Intriguingly, Douglass frames the play as a flashback, adding scenes showing middle-aged Eliza returning to Higgins’s home after his death in the early 1950s. (The time is established by musical selections including Ella Fitzgerald’s 1951 “Smooth Sailing” and Dinah Washington’s 1953 “Wheel of Fortune.”)
—Albert Williams

The Rosenkranz MysteriesCredit: Richard Faverty


The Rosenkrantz Mysteries: An Evening of Magic and Spirits There’s something decidedly amateur about this new show (slotted in at the last minute) at the Royal George Theatre. Presumably inspired by or adapted from a class he teaches at Northwestern for medical students, Medicine and Magic, physician Ricardo Rosenkranz’s 90 minute one-man performance is full of fascinating bits, from our contemplation of Wittgenstein’s duck rabbit to Rosenkranz’s meditation on how medicine is, like magic, a performance art. Including many audience members in the show (so be prepared), Rosenkranz moves us through the illusion of health, the magic of empathy, the power of sympathy. To be sure, there are some impressive tricks here; still, it takes a seasoned performer—not just a gifted clinician and lecturer—to pull off a solo show. —Suzanne Scanlon

Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera!Credit: Evan Hanover

Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera! The kitschy premise behind Elizabeth Searle and Michael Teoli’s new musical—relitigating Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan’s 1994 Winter Olympics figure-skating fiascovia musical theater—sounds like the inspiration for a piano-only 45-minute late-night Annoyance or Upright Citizens Brigade set. At its heart, that’s what I suspect this Underscore Theatre Company production, directed and choreographed by Jon Martinez, more closely resembles, though this ensemble has the comedic and vocal chops to more than fill an hour and half on Theater Wit’s full-size stage. Amanda Horvath and Courtney Mack radiate as the titular ice queens, and Veronica Garza steals the show a handful of times doing double duty as each’s Shakespearean mothers. It’s a fabulously weird and legitimately experimental musical presented in a time when they’re too hard to come by. —Dan Jakes

Uncle Philip’s CoatCredit: Evan Hanover

Uncle Philip’s Coat The title garment is ratty old thing Uncle Philip schlepped with him from Ukraine (which he fled as a nine-year-old, after a pogrom) to Coney Island (where he died decades later, after a marginal life as a boardwalk peddler). Now that his nephew has inherited it, it’s a ratty old nuisance. But in the course of this one-man show written by Matty Selman and performed by the estimable Gene Weygandt, the coat also becomes a way into Philip’s mind—an interesting place to be, given the trauma that determined his life and the sweet, cracked humor that helped him negotiate it. Weygandt and director Elizabeth Margolius make the visit as engaging as possible; Jews of Ashkenazi descent, especially, should find multiple points of communion. But they don’t solve basic dramaturgical problems that make what should be minor issues loom large. Nor can they avoid tripping over the odd bucket of schmaltz. —Tony Adler