Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CLYBOURNE PARK • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (Studio Theatre)

Anytime anyone says in a voice laced with anxiety, "Did you see the family moving in next door?", you always have an idea of where it's gonna go, right?  You know what I'm talking about.  White flight, gentrification, redlining -- they all have one thing in common -- race and housing.  This is the topic that dominates Bruce Norris' Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning play, now receiving a searing production at the Rep's Studio Theatre.  Written in 2010, it's an extension of Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun, picking up where it left off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

GOOD • St. Louis Actors' Studio

C.P. Taylor's 1981 play is tough to categorize.  Some consider it a play.  Others, a play with music, and some consider it a musical comedy, but the subject matter is anything but light.  It takes a look at how the Nazi party is able to gain a foothold in Germany, filtered through the eyes of one man -- John Halder.  It has also already closed its run, but served as an intriguing introduction to St. Louis Actors' Studio's sixth season entitled, "Kings, Queens and Pawns".  John Halder, by the way, is a pawn…

Monday, October 15, 2012

LOST IN YONKERS • New Jewish Theatre

Lost in Yonkers, Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play is considered by many to be one of his best, and it's currently receiving a wonderfully heartfelt production opening the 16th season at the NJT.

As the show begins, 15 and 13 year old brothers, Jay (Robert Love) and Arty (Leo B. Ramsey), are uncomfortably waiting in their Grandma's stuffy New York apartment.  Grandma Kurnitz (Nancy Lewis) is an elderly widow living above her candy store.  She's a German immigrant who has seen a lot of, and been the victim of, much turbulence and grief, and she has come out the other side thick-skinned and hard-boiled.  She doesn't suffer the weak gladly, and this includes her children.  In fact, it seems Grandma doesn't really do anything "gladly".  One of her daughters, Bella (Kelley Weber), lives with her and helps run the store.  Bella is childlike and easily distracted, constantly under the stern thumb of her mother, yet she's also buoyant, resilient and longing for connection with anyone outside of their Yonkers apartment.  Her older brother Eddie (Gary Glasgow) has dropped by with his two boys trailing behind.  Eddie needs a place for them to stay while he hits the southern road to sell scrap metal, trying to pay off the debt he accrued from a loan shark when his late wife was in the hospital.  The boys, still grieving, are terrified at the prospect of staying more than an hour at Grandma's apartment, much less several months, but their father is left with no choice, and Grandma begrudgingly takes them in.

Monday, October 8, 2012

SPRING AWAKENING • Stray Dog Theatre

Navigating those prickly adolescent years can be a real bitch, and bruises can be hard to avoid -- psychological or otherwise.  These perennial rocky roads are explored in Stray Dog Theatre's 10th season opener, Spring Awakening, and it's completely absorbing.  The original material, Frank Wedekind's play written in 1891, was banned in Germany for its content that includes abortion, suicide, homosexuality, rape and child abuse.  The musical adaptation debuted on Broadway in 2006 and won eight Tony Awards, and Stray Dog's production illustrates that the volatility often encountered in the transition from childhood to adulthood doesn't change that much -- regardless of what century you're in.

Set in a provincial 1890's German town, mothers resist telling their daughters about where babies come from, boys are weighed down by the pressure to succeed in their studies and the guilt of wet dreams, and girls are kicked out of their houses because they are being abused by their fathers.  This musical examines sexual awakening without being crude, tempering the heavy subject matter with humor, an authentic approach to those anxiety laden teenage years, and then sets it all to an incredible score courtesy of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater.  Spring Awakening makes an even more powerful impression inside the intimate space of Tower Grove Abbey.

Monday, October 1, 2012

BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON • New Line Theatre

I can hardly think of a better way to catch a break from the onslaught of this year's presidential campaign than to check out this saucy, contemporary, in-your-face look at our seventh president.  BBAJ opens New Line Theatre's 22nd Season, and this show is right up its alley.  Andrew Jackson's legacy includes praise for his military victories as an army general against the British and Spanish in the country's adolescence, helming the formation of the Democratic Party and winning the presidency by America's first popular vote in 1829.  It also includes the criticism he garnered for his forced relocation and devastation of Native Americans and his support of slavery.  I mean hell, during his campaign his opponents referred to him as a jackass.  According to the director's notes, "He was equal parts Barack Obama (charismatic populist), John McCain (crusty war hero), Sarah Palin (loud, clumsy outsider), and George W. Bush (cocky, loyal, and confident)."  He's a very controversial ex-president and the political commentary that runs throughout this rock musical serves as a constant ironic reminder of the parallels between the early nineteenth-century and the new millennium.

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