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Thursday Theater Roundup

It's time again for the Thursday Theater Roundup, our weekly collection of the best shows on stages in and around Western New York. Last week marked the opening of the venerated Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and judging by the first spate of reviews (slated to run in tomorrow's Gusto), it's off to a great start. Here are our reviewers' recommendations for this week:

"Laughter on the 23rd Floor," through June 11 in an American Repertory Theatre of Western New York production in Buffalo East. From the review: "American Repertory Theater of WNY has a labor-of-love version of 'Laughter' at its Buffalo East home, directed skillfully by Thomas LaChiusa. There’s a great cast: Jacob Albarella, David Bondrow, Gary Darling, Ronald J. Leonardi, Sean Kelly, Lisa Dee, Andrea Andolina, the superb David Mitchell — part Brooks, part Allen, he’s neurotic, moody and hilarious — and Jeffrey Coyle, over-the-top manic in the unpredictable role of the Caesaresque Max Prince. Coyle and Mitchell, both crazed, make the night work." --Ted Hadley

At the Shaw Festival:

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Gray Powell as Brick, Jim Mezon as Big Daddy and Corrine Koslo as Big Mama in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Photo by Emily Cooper.

"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," through Oct. 23 in the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "Jim Mezon, the actor who plays Big Daddy, imbues his character with a special mix of nasty, unbridled rage and crazed hope, the two poles between which any production of "Cat" worth its spit violently and relentlessly swing. This production, directed with a passionate sensibility and the odd flicker of restraint by Eda Holmes, allows Williams' characters to lay themselves bare without the interference of a "fresh" interpretation. The play... bastes itself in the sweat of its own melodrama until it cooks into something far greater than the sum of its ingredients." --Colin Dabkowski

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Members of the Ensemble in "My Fair Lady." Photo by David Cooper.

"My Fair Lady," through Oct. 30 in the Festival Theatre in a Shaw Festival production. From the review (coming tomorrow): "Molly Smith, director of the Shaw Festival's new production, seems bent on jazzing all this up in ways we've never seen before. Much of it works very well. Benedict Campbell carries the role of the aloof, scholarly, self-centered Higgins with marvelous consistency, striding the stage in well-practiced patterns that still seem spontaneous, and singing with fine projection of both voice and emotions. Opposite him, Deborah Hay makes Eliza's gradual conversion to a faux aristocrat very convincing. She succeeds dramatically, visually and vocally, in both Cockney squalor and upper-crust elegance." --Herman Trotter

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Michael Ball as Captain Shotover, Robin Evan Willis as Ellie Dunn and Patricia Hamilton as Nurse Guinness in "Heartbreak House." Photo by David Cooper.

"Heartbreak House," through Oct. 7 in the Festival Theatre in a Shaw Festival production. From the review (coming tomorrow): "In Christopher Newton's engrossing, impeccably staged production, the play's skeleton crew of eccentrics amble around their vaguely nautical environs for three hours and wax poetic on subjects ranging from the use of one's soul to our conflicting desires for pleasure and purpose. No need to get seasick at the prospect of sitting through the show, though. That Shaw's weighty themes remain so captivating across the evening is a testament both to the comic force of his writing and the talents of Newton's cast, who bring characters that might have been stodgy bores in lesser hands to scintillating life." --Colin Dabkowski

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