Stage Capsule Reviews

The Giver It’s Junior’s First Utopian Nightmare down at the Coterie, where shows made for kids are often better than the adult-content theaters in staging, style and intelligence. Coterie shows are shorter, too, and more likely to make a point. This time, director Jeff Church takes on Lois Lawry’s Newberry-winning novel about a “perfect” future in which peace and politeness reign and individuality is punished — a future that is the triumph, one presumes, of southern Johnson County. Through Feb. 25 at the Coterie Theatre in Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.

Leaving Iowa The Heartland is marketing this sweet and funny meditation on family and loss as a rambunctious, Vacation-style road-trip comedy. But Leaving Iowa is original and engaging, avoiding every feel-good cliché while still making us feel good. It’s evocative of stars over the boondocks, of corn in endless rows, of family road trips that you probably endured as a kid, and of grown-up drives that return us to places that may not be as we remember. Playing a young girl, Jessalyn Kincaid is wildly funny; Jim Korinke does his trademark twinkling as the dad; and Craig Benton’s everyman likability holds the show together. Too bad Ken Remmert, playing a succession of broad, bowlegged idjits, shows up every 15 minutes to wreck things. Through Feb. 25 at the American Heartland Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999. Reviewed in our January 18 issue.

The Legend of John Henry More tall tales for the short set from Theatre for Young America, who get all man vs. machine in this take on the character, which the company calls “the only African-American tall-tale hero to appear in the folklore of the United States.” We might think of the original tale as a hard parable about the death of American labor, but the cheerful crew at TYA is promising laughs, sweat, tears, traditional folk music and original songs by Danny Cox. Through Feb. 24 at Union Station’s City Stage, 30 W. Pershing, 816-460-2083.

Music of the 1940s We’re not expecting much different from Quality Hill Playhouse’s first cabaret revue of 2007, which is part of why the show sounds so appealing: the big hits of the ’40s, performed by pianist and master of ceremonies J. Kent Barnhart and his rotating coterie of gifted singers. This time, they revel in the American songbook’s most rewarding decade. Through Feb. 19 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., 816-421-1700.

Monkeys With Hand Grenades Last month’s Year in Review show featured these Monkeys at their best, flying high like those little purple bastards in The Wizard of Oz as they did their 30-sketches-in-60-minutes shtick. We laughed so hard at Nick Rigoli and Megan Mercer that we dislodged all the phlegm built up in our throats. Rigoli’s parody of bad sci-fi was trenchant, hysterical geek-culture criticism, and Mercer’s miming twice brought the house down: first, trying on too-tight pants, then performing fellatio on some dude hung like the state of Florida. 10 p.m. Saturday at Comedy City, 300 Charlotte, 816-842-2744.

Nothing but the Truth In Lying, her classic treatise on our culture of untruth, Siela Bok alleges that even our most well-intentioned, “You look great!”-style fibs result in cumulative and irreparable “harm done to the general level of trust and social cooperation.” City Theatre of Independence digs lightly into the same load of American crap: James Montgomery’s Truth imagines a hero who goes all-in on a bet to speak nothing but the truth for 24 hours, a premise suited for either comedy or existential nightmare. (The good news: They’re going for comedy.) To honor Bok: If it’s awful, make sure you tell everyone you know. Through Feb. 25 at 201 N. Dodgion, Independence, 813-325-7367.

Categories: A&E