Sunday, November 4, 2018

INTO THE BREECHES! • Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Since 2001, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has been chiefly known for thrilling audiences with its annual, free summer productions in Forest Park, and its education/touring program, In the Schools, has been in place since that first season, exposing kids to Shakespeare with performances and workshops. 2012 brought In the Streets, featuring an original work based on one of Shakespeare’s plays, performed in and thematically tailored to reflect the character of highlighted neighborhoods, and of course there’s Shake 38, launched in 2010 -- a marathon five day festival with various companies staging all of Shakespeare's 38 plays in a variety of locations around the city.

Winnifred (Katy Keating), Ellsworth (Gary Wayne Barker)
and Maggie (Michelle Hand).
Photo credit: Phillip Hamer Photography
Its new program, In the Works, showcases contemporary American plays with a kinship to Shakespeare, and George Brant’s heartening and heroic Into the Breeches! makes its regional debut as the Festival’s inaugural headliner. Also featured are family matinees of A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness, inspired by The Comedy of Errors and written by the Festival’s playwright-in-residence, actor and director Nancy Bell, along with staged readings of Michael Sáenz’s coming-of-age story, The Thousand Natural Shocks.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

MACBETH: COME LIKE SHADOWS • Rebel And Misfits Productions

Rebel And Misfits transports audiences to the middle of a pulsing, modernized interpretation of Macbeth in the third installment of its Immersive Theatre Project, where a roughly 10 minute bus ride lands you at Inverness -- a historic, red brick Gothic chancel of graffiti, brick piles and half pipes. Shakespeare’s 17th century tragedy is well known -- a prophesy delivered to Generals Macbeth and Banquo by three witches sets Macbeth and his wife on a murderous pursuit of the crown. This production is a magical but dystopian one, that bends toward the political themes in the play and emphasizes the destructive trappings of power, while filling out a backstory on the players, giving you different perspectives on familiar characters. Its immersive component places you within the performance itself, meaning you’ll be on your feet wandering amongst the cast, where you may have a warning whispered in your ear, a note placed in your hand, or find yourself with a seat at the royal table.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Coming Out Play Festival • The Q Collective

There’s a new theatre company in town, newly launched by local actor Sean Michael -- a familiar face to New Line Theatre audiences. The Q Collective will explore gender, sexuality, and orientation, with an emphasis on the development of local playwrights and composers. They take up the torch ignited by Briefs, a short play festival developed by Joan Lipkin, artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company. Produced in partnership with Vital VOICE Magazine, Briefs featured LGBT-centric works and staged dozens of new plays during its 6 years. The Q Collective’s inaugural festival included eight short plays, culled from 66 submissions, exploring the coming out experience.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

RAGING SKILLET • New Jewish Theatre

Thorny mother and daughter relationships have been at the center of comedies and dramas for forever. But Jewish mothers? Oof, right? NJT opens its 22nd season with a comedy that’s salty and sweet, based on the life of Chef Rossi, the catering director, owner and executive chef of “The Raging Skillet” in NYC. A self-proclaimed punk-rock caterer, Chef Rossi’s memoir/recipe book was adapted into a play by Jacques Lamarre, recounting vivid childhood memories, unruly teenage years, and skirmishes with male chauvinism in bars and kitchens.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

THE LITTLE FOXES • St. Louis Actors' Studio

The Southern home of the Giddens family has a whiff of new money to it, but siblings Ben Hubbard (Chuck Brinkley), Oscar Hubbard (Bob Gerchen) and Regina Giddens (Kari Ely) have a deep capacity for what they’d do to get more. The shameless avarice going on in Lillian Hellman’s classic family drama stands in stark contrast to the elegant attire and lilting drawls in St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s season opener. With sharp performances by director John Contini’s robust cast, The Little Foxes, debuting back in 1939, proves greed never goes out of fashion.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

EVITA • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

There’s a slip of the tongue from Eva Duarte de Perón in “A New Argentina,” as she tries to ease her husband’s qualms about his presidential bid when she concedes, “We'll ... you'll be handed power on a plate.” In Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biographical rock opera, the acquisition of power is something Eva Perón made her guiding principle since she was a kid. After chasing a career in stage, radio and film acting, she met Colonel Juan Perón and the two were married a year later.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

NO EXIT • SATE

French philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1944 rendering of Hell doesn’t involve pitchforks or brimstone, but there is torment nonetheless. In a new translation by Alyssa Ward and a shrewd staging directed by Bess Moynihan, three members of the newly deceased are escorted to the infernal regions to a sparsely furnished room, where not having a toothbrush will be the least of their problems.

Inès (Sarah Morris), Estelle (Rachel Tibbetts)
and Garcin (Shane Signorino).
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell
Garcin (Shane Signorino), a journalist, is the first to arrive, ushered in by Katy Keating as a grim valet who has heard all of the initial questions from newcomers before. He’s soon joined by postal worker in life, Inès (Sarah Morris), and Estelle (Rachel Tibbetts), a conceited socialite. Garcin, practical and self-possessed, thinks staying to themselves is the best plan of action. Estelle, who needs a mirror almost as desperately as she needs a man to seduce, angles for Garcin’s attention. Inès, the sharpest and most cynical of the three, spends most of her time lusting after Estelle, and is the most upfront about the cruelty she inflicted on those in her life. After brief glimpses of the goings on among the living back on earth, their past wrongs are eventually confessed, and the characters of these three souls are laid bare to each other without the convenience or comfort of pretense. The dynamics between these deceivers, murderers and cowards will doom them to spend the rest of time craving affection that will never be returned, and redemption that will never come.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA • R-S Theatrics

From 9 Circles and Adding Machine: The Musical, to The Cherry Sisters Revisited, Parade and In the Heights, R-S Theatrics has never shied away from the risk of locally debuting ambitious plays and musicals. Based on a novella by Elizabeth Spencer, Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza concerns Clara (Macia Noorman), a twenty-something girl from Winston-Salem, who falls in love with a boy while traveling in Italy. Her mother, Margaret (Kay Love), is torn between her instincts to protect Clara, whose mental development was stunted as the result of a childhood accident, and her dreams of happiness and fulfillment for her daughter.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

FAUST (go down with all the re$t) • Equally Represented Arts

ERA is at it again, kicking off FAUSTival -- an artistic collaboration among Equally Represented Arts, The Midnight Company, Theatre Nuevo, SATE, and the Post-Romantics. Each company will present an adaptation of the Faust myth over five months, and ERA’s ensemble-created rock-opera plays out at Foam, a coffeehouse/bar/music venue along Cherokee Street. With music composed by Kid Scientist, ERA takes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, includes text from Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, and adds in some tv game shows to skewer capitalism and ask, “How much is a soul worth?”

Monday, August 6, 2018

THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM • Stray Dog Theatre

The stage at Tower Grove Abbey is set for some tale tellin' in Stray Dog’s season closer, Alfred Uhry and Robert Waldman’s The Robber Bridegroom. The musical was based on a novel that was loosely adapted from a Brothers Grimm story of the same name. Eudora Welty’s 1942 novel took the Grimm fairy tale and set it in 18th century Mississippi along the forests of the Natchez Trace. Uhry and Waldman’s musical has its share of fanciful, dark, even lurid elements, like you might expect from any fairy tale, but the score -- an uncommon blend of traditional Broadway music and authentic bluegrass, and Stray Dog’s tireless, country-fried cast of characters, provide a curiously savory mix.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

THE REALISTIC JONESES • Rebel And Misfits Productions

When Bob (Alan Knoll) and Jennifer (Laurie McConnell) meet their new neighbors, John (Isaiah Di Lorenzo) and Pony (Kelly Hummert), it would seem the only thing they have in common is the last name, “Jones.” But as these couples get caught up in each other's orbits and learn of each other's sorrows, playwright Will Eno finds a striking balance between laugh-out-loud humor and disquieting melancholy. You'd be hard-pressed to find a play that speaks so fluently to the human inclination towards connection by way of such disjointed tangles of inelegant conversation than Rebel and Misfits' sharp, St. Louis premiere production.

Bob and Jennifer, lounging in their backyard taking a stab at small talk, are interrupted by the noisy arrival of John and Pony who come over to introduce themselves -- wine bottle in hand. Pony -- affable, fragile and dizzy, explains that she’s always wanted to live in a small town near the mountains in a way that’s just short of “valleyspeak”, while John has non sequitur-filled, slightly contentious exchanges with Bob, who’s quietly imploding and over the unannounced visit pretty quickly. The communication that this foursome engages in as they become more acquainted comes with an awkwardness that hangs in the air, but it also grows to include an intimacy grounded in isolation, love and fear that’s slyly situated just beyond the banter.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

LaBute New Theater Festival II • St. Louis Actors' Studio

The second set of one-act plays in this year’s LaBute New Theater Festival kicked off this past Friday, and while the first half offered a mixed bag, this second half is strong. LaBute’s The Fourth Reich (that you can read about here), is followed by Michael Long’s The Gettier Problem, Peter McDonough’s The Process, and Unabridged by Sean Abley.

The Gettier Problem, directed by Wendy Greenwood, opens with Colleen Backer as Edie Gettier, a patient in a psychiatric hospital. She’s being coaxed into taking her premedication by a nurse (Erin Brewer) and a technician (Spencer Sickmann). The tech is the only one she’ll take the pill for, as she seems to have a little crush on him. Once the nurse leaves the tech to make sure the pill takes effect, Gettier’s physical tics stop, she loses her lisp, and says she’s a PhD who’s undercover doing research about the mysteries of knowledge -- something she hopes to achieve by going through the procedure without premedication.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

LaBute New Theater Festival I • St. Louis Actors' Studio

The LaBute New Theater Festival is back for its sixth year at St. Louis Actors' Studio. The finalists are culled from about 300 entries, and six new short plays have been chosen, along with an annual debut by the festival’s namesake, Tony-nominated playwright Neil LaBute, who made an appearance on opening night. The first set of three will run through the 15th, and the second trio will run from the 20th through the 29th, with LaBute’s premiere featured every night of the festival. There were also four high school finalists that received a free-admission stage reading this past Saturday.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Grand Center Theatre Crawl • St. Louis Public Radio, Grand Center & Kranzberg Arts Foundation

Presented by Grand Center, St. Louis Public Radio, and the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, the sixth annual Grand Center Theatre Crawl kicked off last Friday. Over the course of 2 days, with venues scattered throughout the Grand Center Arts District, over 2 dozen companies performed short presentations every 30 minutes -- all for free! It’s another one-of-a-kind theatre celebration that’s pretty unique to St. Louis. The organizers of the Theatre Crawl did some limited research on theatre events and festivals around the country. They found lots of Fringe Festivals, events devoted to specific playwrights, and events dedicated to new work. They did not, however, find anything that celebrated the local theatre community quite like the Crawl. Here’s a very small taste of what was on offer.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

BLOW, WINDS • Shakespeare in the Streets: Downtown St. Louis

Playing out on the steps of the St. Louis Central Public Library, Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare in the Streets celebrated its sixth year last weekend. Originally scheduled to run in September 2017, the acquittal of former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley generated protests downtown, making it necessary for Shakespeare in the Streets to cancel due to security concerns. Galvanized by these developments, Nancy Bell’s original adaptation was modified with the help of playwriting fellow, Mariah L. Richardson, to further address the divisions, as well as the strengths, within St. Louis. Past productions have concentrated on one neighborhood, but this year, South County, West County, North County and the City were all cunningly incorporated into the tragedy of King Lear, or in this case, King Louis. Tom Martin keenly directed a top-notch cast, and the contributions by Central Baptist Church Choir, The Gentlemen of Vision Step Team and Genesis Jazz Project provided an intense boost to the production. Margery & Peter Spack’s spectacular projections provided a feast for the eyes, transforming the library’s exterior to a sprawling St. Louis City flag design, neon landscapes, lightning-charged storms, and a magnificent stone brick castle -- complete with battlements, torch sconces and crests.

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