Stagebeat

Capsule reviews of current area stage shows.

Not to be confused with Plaza Suite, Neil Simon's California Suite is a series of four vignettes that take place in the same hotel room. The play starts off slowly with a scene between anal intellectual New York editor Hannah (Merry Jo Pitasi) and her ex-husband, Polo-shirt-wearing Billy (James Cichewicz). Hannah has come to get her daughter, Jenny, who has run off to be with California-casual dad. The two banter snidely, going through the motions and stumbling over lines. But the second piece is so laugh-out-loud funny that it makes the whole play worth watching. A hungover and frantic Marvin (Rusty Allison) panics when he awakens to find a girl (Elizabeth King) in his bed and his wife, a buttoned-up Millie (Meryl Bezrutczyk), on her way to the hotel. Exhausted from her flight, Millie just wants to nap, but a frazzled Marvin keeps her out of the bedroom using one ridiculous excuse after another. Both actors create brilliant characters, keeping emotions true. The next couple is a pair of English theatrical types. Diana (Pitasi) is nominated for tonight's Academy Awards. Appearing nonchalant and highbrow but insecure about her appearance, she slowly descends into a despair and longing that cannot be satiated by her refined and gay husband, Sidney (Dante Marelli). Pitasi puts more weight into this character, conquering accent and mannerism, showing depth of emotion, while Marelli stays distantly aloof. In the fourth vignette, four friends take the vacation from hell. Husband Mort (Cichewicz) and friend Stu (Allison) fight after Mort's wife, Beth (King), injures herself in a tennis match. A whiny Beth protects her leg while a preppy Gert (Bezrutczyk) tries to break up the set; hilarity ensues. Allison and Cichewicz manage to keep the scene believable despite over-the-top physical comedy. (Through March 6 at Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs, 954-344-7765.) -- Rachel Galvin NOW SHOWING

Bug, a wild riff on blue-collar paranoia from the author of Killer Joe, this GableStage production is set in an Oklahoma City motel where a hard-luck waitress encounters a Gulf War vet who claims that the government has implanted mind-controlling insects under his skin. Director Joseph Adler stirs up a highly charged thriller, and there is much that might startle: extensive nudity, casual trips to the toilet (in full audience view), and moments of grotesque violence. But it also manages to be a loopy, poignant love story. The result is disturbing and creepy but thoroughly engaging. (Through January 2 at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables, 305-445-1119.)

Ennio can best be described as laugh-out-loud hilarious. Italian performance artist Ennio Marchetto engages the audience with side-splitting parody, physical comedy, and origami skill. With presto-changeos of his self-made paper attire, he transforms from one pop icon to another. Lip syncing to some of the catchiest tunes from the '20s through today, he dives into everything from hard rock and disco to Latin and opera. He masterfully takes on not only the semblance but even the mannerisms of a parade of pop icons, including Marilyn Monroe, Stevie Wonder, Slim Shady, Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Tina Turner, Pavarotti, and Frank Sinatra. He even busts out (literally) into a Madonna montage. The way he surprises the audience with costume after costume, pulling out new props out of nowhere, is magical. He lets his nose lead the way as he parodies Barbra Streisand, lip syncing "People." He changes from a cigar-smoking Fidel Castro to Celia Cruz without missing a beat of "Guantanamera." His never-ending "I will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston shows playful disdain. During Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," his paper-doll Rose and Jack gladly jump the Titanic. He even employs ventriloquism as a device for a few surprising pairings. He multiplies his effort by becoming the Supremes, the Three Tenors, and even a pack of Gregorian monks. The unexpected craziness that is Ennio is a must-see. (Through December 31 at Cuillo Centre for the Arts, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach, 561-835-9226.)

 
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