Friday, 15 February 2019 14:16

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 15, 2019

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There's plenty of new theatre this week, from cabaret to adult drama to children's theatre. Go see a play!


New This Week:


Farragut North
Photo by Patrick Huber

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the political thriller Farragut North Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through February 24. Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. For more information call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

My take: Mark Bretz says this story of political intrigue on the campaign trail is "a fascinating political cautionary tale written by John Burroughs alumnus Beau Willimon, is a compelling and provocative story as told by director Wayne Salomon and his smart cast." "At a time when the absurdities of national politics are virtually unavoidable," writes Calvin Wilson at STLToday, "theatergoers might be wary of yet another reminder. But for anyone interested in how we got here, "Farragut North" offers a provocative and entertaining education." Mr. Salomon's cast includes some of our most reliable local actors.


The Hundred Dresses

Metro Theatre Company presents The Hundred Dresses through February 25 " Wanda Petronski, the new girl in Room 13, is a Polish immigrant who lives in a shabby house and doesn't have any friends. Every day she wears the same faded blue dress, but tells her new class-mates that she has a hundred dresses at home. Her classmates tease Wanda about her hundred dresses until one day she disappears from school. As guilt overtakes the children, they decide to find out what happened to Wanda and to make amends. But is it too late? Bullying, friendship and forgiveness are at the center of this play adapted from the beloved Newbery Honor Book by Eleanor Estes." The performance takes place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: metroplays.org.

My take: This 1998 stage adaptation of a 1945 Newberry Award-winning children's book deals with adult themes. "Yes, it is a children's play," writes Richard Green, [b]ut The Hundred Dresses contains all the elements, in story and characterization, of a more ambitious story." Mark Bretz at Ladue News agrees: "Metro Theater Company artistic director Julia Flood and her acting quintet do poetic justice to this sweet, affecting story by Eleanor Estes in a production tailored to children but with a message of tolerance and understanding important for all." At a time when hatred of the "other" is making a repellent comeback, this show seems very timely.


Paula Stoff Dean

The Hermann Showboat Community Theatre presents Paul Stoff Dean in an encore performance of her solo debut cabaret, Its About The Journey, on Friday and Saturday, February 15 and 16, at 8pm. "It's been several years in the making but Paula Stoff Dean is finally debuting in her first ever solo cabaret. Paula's voice has been described as one that can shake the rafters or break your heart. If you haven't heard her sing, make sure you mark this date on your calendars. She has been in various productions with several different theatre companies in the St Louis area such as Stray Dog Theatre, West End Players, Non Prophet Theatre Company, Dramatic License Productions, and most recently ComedySportz St. Louis." The show is directed by Kay Love with musical direction by Carol A Schmidt. Performances take place at the Showboat Community Theatre, 112 E. 4th St. in Herrmann, MO. For more information: showboattheatre.org.

My take: I first encountered the very talented Ms. Dean back in 2009 when we shared the stage in Stray Dog Theatre's first production of The Rocky Horror Show. I have since had opportunities to admire her work in other shows, including her remarkable Sally Bowes in Stray Dog's dark Cabaret a few years later. Reviewing the first performance of this show for KDHX in September, Steve Callahan praised Ms. Dean's "very special sexy, vivacious, comic gift." I agree.


Oslo
Photo by Peter Wochniak

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the drama Oslo running through March 3. "Winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play. In 1993, two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work toward peace. This breathtaking drama tells the story of the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible. By focusing on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, Oslo finds the unlikely story behind this historic event." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org

My take: The Oslo peace accords might not seem as the most likely subject for a successful play, but then, neither would nuclear physics, and that didn't stop Michael Frayn from writing a hit with Copenhagen. In fact, as Ann Lemmons Pollack writes, "how the accord came to be is a fascinating and very human story about how individuals can make a difference in the world...It’s a fascinating play, well written and surprisingly funny." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that "Steven Woof, The Rep’s Augustin artistic director, makes his final directorial effort at the helm of The Rep a smashing success with this riveting, superbly acted and beautifully modulated production."


That Uppity Theatre Company and NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri present The Vagina Monologues Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, February 16 and 17. "The event will feature one of the largest and most diverse casts of women seen on stage in St. Louis and will include cisgender, transgender, non-binary, African American, Asian American, Latina, white, immigrant, and refugee women, spanning several decades in age. The play explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, love, rape, menstruation, birth, orgasm, and many other topics. Performances take place at the .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: https://www.metrotix.com/events/detail/naral-the-vagina-monologues.

My take: That Uppity Theatre Company remains our preeminent local theatre company with a conscience. And Eve Ensler's play feels more timely now than ever.


Held Over:


Avenue Q
Photo by John Flack
 

The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents the musical Avenue Q running through March 3. "Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, AVENUE Q is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the timeless story of a bright-eyed college grad named Princeton. When he arrives in the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account, he has to move into a shabby apartment all the way out on AVENUE Q. Still, the neighbors seem nice. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Lucy (the slut), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet entrepreneur), superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) and other new friends! Together, they struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: www.playhouseatwestport.com.

My take: A smart, hip, and very funny parody of Sesame Street, Avenue Q is also an entertaining (if R-rated) story of college-educated twentysomethings--both flesh and foam rubber--coming to grips with the economic, political and sexual facts of life. The show is good, not-so-clean fun and always worth seeing. This production is "outrageously funny" (Calvin Wilson, STLToday). "A blend of national and local talent brings zest, exquisite precision and rampant enthusiasm to this delightful version of the Tony Award-winning musical melange of puppeteered optimism at its finest," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News.


Classic Mystery Game
Photo by Joey Rumpell

Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Classic Mystery Game Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm through February 16. "Classic Mystery Game: a parody (or a spoof, maybe a send-up, possibly a take-off). The use of parody in human culture is ritualistic, so here is SATE, once more, to perform yet another ritual. Classic Mystery Game investigates Western society in 2019 through the lens of the hilarious 1985 movie, CLUE...which in turn was investigating Western society in 1985 through the lens of McCarthyism. Perhaps by distilling our world through so many layers of comedy, as the ritual calls for, we'll discover a bit of Truth - even if it's merely a smile at the end of a funny play." Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

My take: Whatever else Classic Mystery Game's PR may claim, it would appear that it is ultimately a big, entertaining, and very funny show. At KDHX, Tina Farmer says its "a comic circus of sorts, paying tribute to the fun of the board game and the campy excess of the 1985 movie. If you are looking for a genuine comedy that the whole family can enjoy or just a fun night out with friends or a date, "Classic Mystery Game"...is an excellent choice." "This is a hilarious show," writes Michelle Kenyon on her blog, "with a spirit reminiscent of old-time sketch comedy shows..There's wordplay and innuendo, along with physical comedy, sight gags and more as the story continues on its rapid pace until its suitably hilarious conclusion. I won't give any more details, because that will spoil the fun. And fun, it certainly is."


The Crucible
Photo by Dan Danovan

Stray Dog Theatre presents Arthur Miller's The Crucible Thursdays through Saturdays, February 7 - 23. There will also be a show at 2 pm on Sunday, February 17. "Lies. Betrayal. Lust. In 1690s Salem, a young girl leads a Puritanical purge of witchcraft against a local farmer and his wife. As fear and excitement grow in the town, the accusations grow more ferocious and terrifying, until no one is safe, and the truth is obscured completely. Winner of the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: In a 1989 New York Times article reflecting The Crucible, Arthur Miller wrote, "Political movements are always trying to position themselves against the unknown-vote for me and you're safe." The relevance to contemporary politics could hardly be more obvious. Inspired in part by the 20th century witch hunts of the late Senator McCarthy, the play is a searing indictment of the power of mob mentality and the moral corruption of politicians who feed on it. Today the mob is on the Internet and social media, but the intellectually disreputable process is the same. I don't think it's coincidental that the last couple of years have seen a reawakening of interest in this work. In a review for STLtoday Calvin Wilson calls this a "stunning and hauntingly memorable production." "The play's four acts clock in at a total of 3.5 hours including three intermissions," writes Jacob Juntunen at KDHX, "but the quick pacing of Gary F. Bell's direction and the solid acting and design elements make the time fly by like binge watching four episodes of an online streaming drama." And, yes, I have a small part in it.


Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Photo by John Lamb

The West End Players Guild opens its 108th season with the St. Louis premiere of the comedy Exit, Pursued by a Bear Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, February 8 - 17. "Our twisted take on Valentine's Day is Exit, Pursued by a Bear by Lauren Gunderson, author of last season's smash hit Silent Sky. Exit is a nasty feminist revenge comedy featuring a good old boy named Kyle, his beleaguered spouse Nan and her two buddies, a sweetheart of a cross dresser named Simon and a stripper named Sweetheart. Nan has decided to teach Kyle a long-deserved lesson, and then cover him with meat and honey and feed him to a bear. Yes, it's that funny." There will also be a show on Thursday, February 14, at 8 pm. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org.

My take: I haven't seen any of the rehearsals for this production yet, but I'm on West End's play reading committee and so I have read the script. It's a hilarious wild ride that's very different in tone from Gunderson's more well-known Silent Sky. This is definitely an adult comedy, though, so leave the little ones at home. At KDHX, Tina Farmer says it's a "laugh out loud funny and oddly relatable as it delivers a few heartfelt lessons on friendship, loyalty and finding yourself."

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