Capsule Reviews 

Our critics weigh in on local theater.

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Meanwhile, Back at the Super Lair -- Pity the Human Fly. His girlfriend, Leopard Woman, doesn't understand him, Paxil weight gain makes him look bad in his spandex, and the other members of the Super Tribe are upset because he didn't take responsibility for this week's chore wheel back at headquarters. Being a modern superhero ain't easy. Especially if you really don't have any superpowers, you're racked with existential angst, and the mayor is sending over an efficiency expert to see if your band of merry good-doers are a strain on city resources. It's enough to make a man wish there were some real supervillains around, something to give his life purpose. That's the basic premise of Greg Kalleres' Meanwhile, Back at the Super Lair, a goofy, risqu romp through the underside of superherohood. In Kalleres' distressingly crime-free Sate City, there isn't much for four costumed-yet-powerless do-gooders to do, besides hanging around playing cards and going to the shrink. At least until the mysterious Eidolon, a vicious criminal mastermind, arrives to stir things up. Playwright Kalleres makes fun of everything here, from D&D to whether men pee sitting down or standing up. Impact's hit-to-miss ratio has been improving steadily over the past few seasons, and Meanwhile is definitely in the first column. Even if it gets a little precious in places -- the extended monologues on the Meaning Of Life could be a little less, well, extended -- the concept is good, and the story is sure to amuse anyone familiar with the genre Kalleres is lampooning. -- L.D. (Through December 11 at LaVal's; ImpactTheatre.com or 510 464-4468.)

Scapino -- Fans of broad, bright humor have a delightful surprise in store at the Altarena Playhouse, where Frank Dunlop and Jim Dale's gloss on Molire, Scapino!, is shaking its slapsticky tush all over the stage. This combination of 16th-century commedia dell'arte and modern dress proves to be just the ticket for the venerable community theater; it's broad and forgiving, thrives on exuberance, and pleases audiences of all ages. Traditionally, commedia treads the line between true improv and a completely scripted work. Although there isn't a script per se, there is an outline that the players have agreed upon in advance. This script, and especially this production, which was a little bumpy (but cheerfully so) opening night, captures the feeling of classic commedia in the story of two young men who are desperate to marry sweethearts not of their fathers' choosing. Set in a sunny seaside Italian town, Scapino! follows Ottavio and Leandro as they enlist the aid of the titular scalawag, the servant of Ottavio's blustery father Argante. Scapino's task is to get the boys married off to their true loves, squeeze money out of their miserly fathers, and wreak a little revenge of his own. One thing about commedia is that if you know the form, there are certain things you expect to see, and this show doesn't disappoint: extended sausage abuse, a man hidden in a sack, dedicated if not-too-bright lovers and, of course, lazzi (lot-see), comic bits that may have little or nothing to do with the main action, but the performer does them anyway. Also true to form, this is one of those shows where shy audience members might want to avoid the front row; although if you're bold and sitting in the right place you might end up on stage feasting on wine and pizza. Light in spirit and heavy with pop-culture references from The Godfather to Charlie's Angels, there's a lot to enjoy in this bubbly, family-friendly production even if you don't get pizza. -- L.D. (Through November 27 at the Altarena Playhouse; Altarena.org or 510-523-1553.)

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