Epic Proportions: This comedy by playwrights Larry Coen and David Crane came about after the pair noticed an extra in a biblical epic they were watching on television being crushed by a falling column. Coen and Crane (who's best known as co-creator and executive producer of TV's Friends) began to wonder what this guy's day had been like before that giant Styrofoam column landed on him, and the result is the infrequently produced backstage story about a couple of bit players who rise through the Hollywood ranks via the usual stage comedy shenanigans. Through June 4 at Copperstate Dinner Theater, which is located inside Phoenix Greyhound Park at 3801 E. Washington St., Phoenix. Tickets are $32.95, which includes dinner. Call 602-279-3129 for reservations and showtimes.
Oleanna: David Mamet wrote Oleanna shortly after the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, which were a huge factor in bringing the term "sexual harassment" into household usage. It's a two-character play, told with Mamet's trademark overlapping dialogue and high tension, that explores the notion of sexual harassment through the interactions of a female student and her professor, whom she's called out as "sexist." The audience is left to decide whether the good prof deserves tenure or a ruined career; whether he was actually inappropriate or the victim of a psycho with a political agenda. This production, by Sidewinder Actors Theatre, runs through Saturday, May 6, at Carefree Amphitheatre, 101 Easy St., Carefree. Call 602-680-0817.
Aida: What do gay rock icons do with their downtime? Why, they write Disney rock musicals, of course. Set in ancient Egypt, Sir Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida grafts a pop-rock score busting with ballads and high-kicking dance numbers onto that old saw about an Ancient Egyptian princess who falls in love with her conqueror, the Egyptian captain Radames. Disney's take on Nubian handmaidens is certainly more wholesome than anything the pre-Sir version of Sir Elton might have presented, but Aida is still hardly a show for the whole family. See for yourself at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, 5247 E. Brown Rd., Mesa. Call 480-325-6700 for showtimes and prices. Through June 10.
Previews and reviews
Jungle Book: Based on the classic Rudyard Kipling tale about a young boy raised by wolves, this kid-friendly perennial wraps up Valley Youth Theatre's kiddy season. (A more adult-friendly production of Bye Bye, Birdie will be performed this summer at the Herberger.) Mowgli learns various life lessons as well as the ways of the jungle with assistance from a talking bear, panther and python in a script that owes a little more to the Disney animated feature than to the original story. Through Sunday, May 7, at Valley Youth Theatre, 525 N. 1st St., Phoenix. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Fridays, noon and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $15 each; to reserve them, call 602-253-8188.
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds: Paul Zindel's best-known play won the Obie Award for "Best Play" and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1970, and was handed the Pulitzer Prize for drama the following year. It's an autobiographical story based loosely on Zindel's own childhood in a single-parent household; a roman à clef in which a bitter, disillusioned woman named Beatrice tries to cope after her husband flees, leaving her to raise their daughter. Good news for local theater fans: In this iTheatre Collaborative production, the cast includes Michelle Chin, one of our best local kid actors. Through May 20 at the Herberger Theater Center's Performance OutReach Theater, 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $20, or $15 for students and seniors. For reservations call 602-347-1071.
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