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Stage Capsule Reviews

Our critic weighs in on local theater.

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Fully Committed Former Kansas Citian Jason Chanos returns to the multifaceted role he originally played at the Unicorn Theatre in the summer of 2002. He mainly plays Sam, a struggling New York actor who pays the bills by serving as a trendy restaurant's reservations agent. Where the comedy gets interesting is in Chanos' metamorphosis into more than three dozen other characters seemingly hellbent on making Sam's life miserable. How desperate do people get in order to say they've eaten at the hottest spot in Manhattan? How do the restaurant staff cope with people at their worst? How does Sam manage to stay human through it all? Chanos, who won a Pitch Best Of citation for the first production, deftly answers these and other questions. Through October 17 at the American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999.

Girls Night Out The work of Full Frontal Comedy could never be confused with any funny business you'd see on the testosterone-infused Spike channel. That's primarily because of the troupe's female chief of staff, Tina Morrison, who knows a sharp female performer from one who merely jumps on trampolines. She'll join fellow performers Shelly Stewart, Tricia Davenport and the ever-watchable Stasha Case --and a few men -- in an evening of short-form improvisational games based on audience suggestions, including "Soap Opera," which turns an unsuspecting patron's life into, well, something you'd find in Pine Valley. The gimmick of the title is that women will be admitted for half-price. September 10 and 11 at the Barn Players, 6219 Martway in Mission, 913-403-4340.

Los Zapatos Magicos: Pedro's Magic Shoes The Lawrence-based Seem-To-Be Players launch their new season this weekend with a sneak preview of one of this year's shows, Los Zapatos Magicos: Pedro's Magic Shoes. Artistic Director Ric Averill wrote the bilingual play that the company will eventually tour across Kansas and such cities as Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Yuma, Arizona. Saturday's performance, a staged "script-in-hand" reading, features San Diego native Tony Perez in the title role, a trickster whose stories originated in Spanish folklore. Local actor Jake Walker costars. At 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire, 785-843-2787.

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 Borrowing a bit from Agatha Christie, John Bishop's interactive mystery begins with a clique of Broadway hopefuls gathered for a backer's audition at the estate of a certain moneybags. When a blizzard predictably cuts off external communication and the roads, it's no surprise, either, that bodies start piling up like firewood. If accusatory thespians, swiveling bookcases and accusing fingers are your cup of pekoe, director Greg Boyle invites you to City Theatre of Independence to channel your internal Sherlock Holmes. Among the cast is Ray Ettinger, who made many a Late Night Theatre show deliciously ridiculous. Through September 19 at the Roger T. Sermon Center, 201 North Dodgion in Independence, 816-325-7367.

Red, Hot and Cole The reviews for the recent Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely ranged from so-so to rabid (see The New York Times), but no critic disparaged the Porter songbook. The Leawood Stage Company jumps on the bandwagon with its production of Red, Hot and Cole this weekend. A book musical rather than a revue, the show tells Porter's story with a mix of song, dance and drama, including in the latter the composer's marriage of convenience and the tragic equestrian accident that crushed his legs. The show also features appearances by such Porter friends as Ethel Merman and Noel Coward. The musical is free September 9, 10 and 12 and will be staged as part of a $50 benefit event on September 11; all performances at the Lodge at Ironwoods, 147th Street and Mission Road, 913-339-6700, ext. 157.

Songs From the Silver Screen The movie music wafting about the Quality Hill Playhouse takes a few unexpected detours from what might be expected from a show called Songs From the Silver Screen. From vintage movie musicals like Broadway Melody of 1938, artistic director J. Kent Barnhart culls such classics as "You Made Me Love You," plus a healthy dose of Gershwin. There also are a few tunes from movies with music that weren't musicals, such as the eternally kitschy Connie Francis hit "Where the Boys Are." Starring with Barnhart are Blanche Shively, Cindy Baker and James Wright. Through October 10 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., 816-421-1700.

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