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Thursday Theater Roundup

Time again for the Thursday Theater Roundup, in which our reviewers point audiences in the direction of the best shows running this week on Western New York stages. Here goes:

"Fit to Be Tied," through May 21 in the Buffalo United Artists Theatre. From the review (coming tomorrow): "'Fit' is a wild, dysfunctional tale. Arloc, twenty-something, is both angry and grief-stricken. His long-time lover has just died of AIDS and Arloc himself has received a letter from his doctor -- the envelope still unopened -- bad news awaiting, he thinks. This is 1996, a time when HIV positive was a death sentence, so the kid’s angst is no surprise." --Ted Hadley

Vincent O'Neill and Chris Kelly in the Irish Classical Theatre's production of "Shining City."

"Shining City," through May 22 in the Andrews Theatre in a production by the Irish Classical Theatre Company. From the review: "'Shining City,' the haunting, atmospheric play by Conor McPherson set in a Dublin therapist's office that doubles as an echo chamber for lost souls, is an eight-cylinder engine of melancholy fueled by a full tank of high-grade regret. Which is to say that this show, a 100-minute one-act that opened Thursday night in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's Andrews Theatre, is a knowing and masterful expression of the Irish condition. And this production, imbued with perfectly naturalistic language by McPherson and a maximum of emotional depth and sophistication by visiting director Gordon McCall, lets those souls have their say." --Colin Dabkowski

"The Grand Manner," through May 29 in the Kavinoky Theatre. From the review: "These two eternal tendencies — to return to one’s beginnings and to fall victim to the siren song of nostalgia — converge in the character of Katharine Cornell as imagined by Buffalo’s own A. R. 'Pete' Gurney. The play, fabulously titled 'The Grand Manner,' is Gurney’s wistful love letter to the hard-working and deeply beloved Buffalo-born actress once hailed by Alexander Woolcott as “The First Lady of the Theatre.” In this charming if sometimes overly sentimental production, directed as if through a scrim of gossamer by Robert Waterhouse, it’s not hard to fall headlong into Gurney’s fanciful expansion and reimagining of a short backstage meeting he once had with the famed actress after a performance of Shakespeare’s 'Antony and Cleopatra.' " --Colin Dabkowski

Jay Pichardo and Matt Witten in "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" at Road Less Traveled Theatre. Photo by Harry Scull / The Buffalo News.

"The Last Days of Judas Iscariot," through May 22 in the Road Less Traveled Theatre. From the review: "Though Guirgis’ characters drop F-bombs left and right and wax obscene on topics from sexual endowments to cocaine binges, make no mistake: This is the Gospel according to Guirgis, a staunch anti-Gibsonite and the closest thing to a latter-day saint in the theater. This production, directed by Scott Behrend with a keen understanding of its theological underpinnings and a deep sensitivity to its audience, is a major achievement for Road Less Traveled. It brings together a cast of uncommon talent and diversity to deliver a tale whose themes are immediately relevant to Western New York’s faithful and its lost sheep alike." --Colin Dabkowski

Jackie Burns as Elphaba in the naitonal tour of "Wicked," now playing in Shea's Performing Arts Center.

"Wicked," through May 22 in Shea's Performing Arts Center. From the review (coming tomorrow): " As shrewdly engineered musical theater phenomena go, the shock-and-awe spectacle of 'Wicked' is a special case. Like 'Rent' before it, 'Wicked' inserted its hooks -- musical, visual and otherwise -- into its core audience early and inextricably. Unlike 'Rent,' that audience included many grade-schoolers, as well as young adults and boomers who remember wistfully the 1939 film out of which the musical's twisted ticket of moralistic mythology grew. In that way, this musical's formula of spectacle mixed with soaring pop melodies and a lesson in morality that clobbers audiences over the head at every turn, is designed more than anything for the middle-school set. And that is much to its credit." --Colin Dabkowski

The cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in MusicalFare Theatre.

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," through May 15 in MusicalFare Theatre. From the review: "'Spelling Bee' as the show is affectionately known among its legions of cult followers, began its life as a piece of sketch comedy about quirky bee contestants. Without obscuring its DIY charm, Finn, Sheinkin and others built it out into something much greater, a show that combines Finn's gorgeous flights of musical fancy with a thoroughly contemporary sense of humor and a genuine sympathy for the plight of 12-year-old weirdos, dorks and overachievers everywhere. The result is a piece that not only reduces audiences to riotous laughter, but which accesses and soothes that part of our psyche that never quite overcame those lingering insecurities of adolescence." --Colin Dabkowski

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