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Underneath the Lintel: Try though they might, neither actor Christopher Haines, who appears in Glen Berger's one-man one-act, nor Charles St. Clair, its director, can save this sinking ship of a show. Lintel is an exploration of faith that comments on man's place in the universe; one that's couched in a whacked-out, underwritten travelogue that no amount of talent can rescue. The whole mishmash begins when the Librarian discovers a book, left in the overnight return slot at the library, that's 113 years overdue. It sounds like a single-joke show, and it plays like one, too. This fellow travels the world in search of the man who dared to keep a book for more than a century. His travel tales, told with the help of a chalkboard, a slide presentation and a trunkful of "evidence," are an endless snooze fest punctuated with occasional chuckles, thanks mostly to Haines' friendly way with words. The revelation here is that the only person even slightly interested in finding the guy who returned the late book is the Librarian himself. St. Clair's staging is clean and unfussy and allows his actor to make the most of playwright Berger's words. And there's the problem: Berger's script builds so slowly and is so steeped in "meaningful" plot markers that it's hard, even with Haines' agreeable performance, to stay engaged. Through Sunday, Jan. 29. Theater Works, 10484 W. Thunderbird Rd., Sun City. Call 623-815-1791 for times and ticket prices. (Reviewed 1/19)

Sweeney Todd: Like the song says, "Sweeney Todd/His skin was pale and his eye was odd/He shaved the faces of gentlemen/Who never thereafter were heard of again." Created by the modern master of the musical, Stephen Sondheim, this award-winning tuner is as blackly comic as song cycles come. Hugh Wheeler's book is full of murder and sly references to more traditional musical fare. Through Feb. 12. Fountain Hills Community Theatre, 11445 N. Saguaro Blvd., Fountain Hills. Call 480-837-9661 for times and ticket prices.

The 1940's Radio Hour: Walton Jones' nostalgic trip down memory lane sets a World War II stage full of swinging big band music and some occasionally clever situation comedy. Directed and choreographed by Robert Kolby Harper, this production features several up-and-comers, although the cast also includes local vets Ben Stewart and Jim Roehr. Music director Jonathan Ivie has put some swing into highlights that include "Ain't She Sweet," "Blue Moon," and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Through Feb. 5. Phoenix Theatre, 100 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix. Call 602-254-2151 for times and ticket prices.

Carousel: Musical-theater fans tend to agree that this is Rodgers and Hammerstein's very best collaboration, an opinion reportedly shared by the composers themselves. Scottsdale Community Players have taken a shot at this dark, message-driven musical based on Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár's play about a love affair in a small New England fishing village. Carousel was considered revolutionary for its time, because it was one of the first musicals to contain a tragic plot -- the male lead, Billy, is killed during an attempted robbery -- and because of its darkly pessimistic ending. Pretty heady stuff for a '40s musical. This production, directed by David Hock, features Nicole Lang as Julie and Alex Gonzales as Billy. Through Sunday, Jan. 29. Stagebrush Theatre, 7020 E. 2nd St., Scottsdale. Call 480-990-7405 for times and ticket prices.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile: Steve Martin proves he's a wild and crazy playwright in this nutty study about what would happen if Picasso and Einstein ran into each other at a seedy Parisian bar before each became famous. Romance, art, time, and the Theory of Relativity are all hashed out with wit and speed in Martin's short, thoughtful comedy, presented here by Desert Foothills Theatre. Through Sunday, Jan. 29. Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center, 33606 N. 60th St., Cave Creek. Call 480-488-1981 for times and ticket prices.

 
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