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The king and thigh

Olympia’s Harlequin Productions and Capital Playhouse stage winners

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It’s Olympia week in the theater world these days with two capital city stages producing crowd-pleasers this weekend.

“Enrico IV”

Harlequin Productions is a theater on fire, and some of the loudest and hottest crackle in the South Sound thespian grapevine has been about the theater’s staging of “Enrico IV,” a period play by Luigi Pirandello that is mid-run through its production.

The play shows the story of a young Richie Rich/Paris Hilton sort of a dude who suffers an accident during an extravagant historical pageant and gets it into his head that he isn’t a rich snoot but actually the German royal, Henry IV, he was portraying.

All is well and good as his family humors him for decades by playing along with his new identity — even going so far as to visit him in his make believe throne room and even surrounding him with pretend court counsel.

Then they opt to pull the plug and call in a head shrinker to work his magic.  The comedic tragedy takes a spin for the weird from there and takes a trip into the realm of reality and fantasy and back so many times that the audience forgets what’s what.

What makes this play a hit with local theatergoers is that it is so different from the regular fare, and yet, it is typical Harlequin. It is a theatergoer’s show. It has rich characters, absurd plotline and story twists as the play unravels; yet, it pulls altogether into a nice package with a tight bow by the time the curtain falls.

The Harlequin factor of the show holds up just as well. The costumes are amazing. The staging is edgy and effective. The actors are powerhouses.

“Enrico IV,” Harlequin Productions’ comic tragedy, runs through May 19 and shows at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., in Olympia; $24-$33; 360.786-0151,

“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

The second Olympia theater staging a big dog this weekend is Capital Playhouse as it opens “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

This version of the 1978 Broadway show takes its cue from the revival version staged in 2001, starring Ann-Margaret.

The comedic story, set in Gilbert, Texas, follows the inner workings of a brothel that is located just a tad outside of town. The cathouse in the play, modeled after the famed Chicken Ranch of yesteryear, has been operating for more than a century and is sort of a known entity in the area. All is quiet and lovely until a snooping reporter looking to make a name for himself comes to town to “uncover” the activity at the house of ill repute. Then everything builds to a boil.

Most folks will know the show from the 1982 movie version starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton, but the film is a bit different from the stage version if you pay attention. If you just want a play with lots of boobs and whoopee jokes, then you will never notice the differences.

“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” plays at the Capital Playhouse. Tickets are $21 to $31. The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.  Capital Playhouse, 612 E. Fourth Ave, Olympia; 360.943-2744;

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