D.L. Groover

Thom Pain (based on nothing) a Searing Lesson in How Life Is Messy and Wonderful and Sucks From Time to Time

Eno exalts in capital letters and quotation marks. Raw and unfiltered, Pain is the life force, or as close as we're going to get. Sure, life sucks, but, as Eno (mesmerizing), Parker (spectacular) and director Jason Nodler (precise) encapsulate, the alternative is so much worse and nowhere near as frightfully sardonic. God help us...somebody help us...anybody?

The Hunchback Variations: An Absurdist Comedy With Fascinating Oddness

Maher tantalizes with swirling bits about the nature of creativity, grief, the endless universe, the physical world, the theater. Even Emily Dickinson gets a shoutout. This very short play - no more than 40 minutes - is both crystal and opaque. Images can be concrete and hard, then shattered by hazy contemplation and high-flying concepts. It's certainly unique, a thinking man's vaudeville. You won't soon forget it.

A Very Tamarie Christmas Presents Tamarie Cooper at her Very Best, Within Limits

It wouldn't be summer in Houston without a crazy-quilt vaudeville from Tamarie Cooper and those Catastrophic troopers on a sublimely goofy warpath. Superbly wrapped (thank you Ryan McGettigan and Eric Marsh for those '50s snowflakes and colorful wash), Christmas is the best present ever. You don't even have to shake it to find out what's in it, it'll shake you.

Marie and Bruce Present a Day in Marriage Hell Without an Intermission

Cooper and Scott discover every crumb of hurt, deception, and unrequited love required for Shawn's mordant play to take effect as well as it does. They tread lightly between comedy and out-and-out tragedy as they dissect the everyday little shocks that a relationship, married or otherwise, is forever heir to. No one really listens, Shawn says, no one pays attention. But can you blame them, when what's hurled at them is so vile, so hurtful?