Friday, December 21, 2012

TALLEY'S FOLLY • New Jewish Theatre

Talley's Folly, written in 1979 by Lanford Wilson, takes a look at the reunion of an unlikely couple -- a Jewish accountant and a small town girl from Lebanon, Missouri.

It's 1944, and Matt Friedman (Shaun Sheley) has travelled from St. Louis to Lebanon, MO to seek out Sally Talley (Meghan Maguire) -- a woman with whom he had had a little Summertime dalliance with a year before.  Matt charmingly begins the play, addressing the audience and setting the stage for us.  The story itself is relatively simple.  In the process of reconnecting with each other and overcoming the prejudices of the 40's, and their own vulnerable isolation, we learn about Matt and his determination to see Sally again along with his family's painful past.  An initially chilly Sally also eventually reveals her past as the intended wife in a financially honorable match, and how that unfortunately went down in flames.  They also talk about the boathouse, where all of the action takes place and where they first  met (beautiful scenic design provided by Jason Coale and evocatively shifting lights courtesy of Nathan Schroeder).

Meghan Maguire (Sally)
and Shaun Sheley (Matt).
Photo credit: John Lamb
This is a poignant little "I'll show you my insides if you show me yours" kind of one-act, and under Deanna Jent's smooth direction, the leads, Sheley and Maguire, bear genuinely real emotions during this 93 minute or so two-hander.  Both are captivating throughout.  In addition to Coale's scenic design and Schroeder's lighting design, the costumes by Michele Friedman Siler and sound by Robin Weatherall do their part in contributing enriching elements to the play.

While this play assumes a leisurely pace, you're easily invited to participate as a fly on the wall, witnessing a relatively brief but emotionally revealing encounter that sheds rewarding moments.  Only one more weekend!


TALLEY'S FOLLY

Written by Lanford Wilson
Directed by Deanna Jent
Marvin & Harlene Wool Studio, 2 Millstone Campus Drive Creve Coeur
through December 23 | tickets: $35.50 - $39.50
Performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm & 7:30pm

Shaun Sheley (Matt) and Meghan Maguire (Sally).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Cast:
Meghan Maguire (Sally) and Shaun Sheley* (Matt)
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic design by Jason Coale; lighting design by Nathan Schroeder; costume design by Michele Friedman Siler; sound design by Robin Weatherall; dialect coach; Richard Lewis; stage manager, Eric Nathan Brady.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

STUPEFY! THE 90 MINUTE HARRY POTTER • Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre

If you've never heard of Harry Potter, you may need to get out more.  Suffice it to say that the series of Harry Potter books and the resulting eight films have become a cultural icon.  So naturally, leave it to Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre, that's brought us hilariously condensed versions of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, to now present Stupefy!  The 90 Minute Harry Potter.  That's right.  All eight films condensed and accelerated to a riotous pace.

Our crew of Harry Potter leads -- Harry Potter (Michael Pierce), the boy wizard, the studious Hermione Granger (Betsy Bowman), and our awkward gingy sidekick Ron Weasley (Jaysen Cryer) were marvelous.  And all of the additional cast of characters were there, too -- everyone from Hagrid (Andrew Kuhlman) and Snape (Rob Suozzi), to "He Who Must Not be Named" (John Foughty) and Bellatrix Lestrange (Sarah Porter).

Photo credit: Brian Peters
The more familiar you are with the series of books and/or films, the more jokes you'll be in on, but under the ingenious direction of Suki Peters, and all of the additional cultural references that are included, it's a guaranteed good time whether you're a Harry Potter fanatic or not.

The projections courtesy of Juan Schwartz are brilliant -- from the talking portraits to the retro video-game screen that announces a Horcrux has been destroyed.  Seriously -- you just have to see it for yourself.  Oh, and Harry's Patronus!  Hilarious!  (I've read all of the books and seen all of the films so...  yeah.  What?!)  Schwartz is also responsible for the scenic design with a neat backdrop of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and lots of room for the sizable cast to romp around in, on and under.  Jaime Zayas provides the lighting design, Jeffrey Roberts contributes great sound design and Katie Donovan provides the vast array of spot-on costumes.

Magic Smoking Monkey has built up quite a following, so get your tickets quickly -- the rest of the run is sold out, but there is a wait list you can get on for Friday and Saturday by emailing a request to boxoffice@stlshakespeare.org.  They've also added a performance for this Thursday the 13th at 7:30pm.

You'll have a lot of laughs, and a very good time.  It looks like the cast is having a great time, too.  Keep in mind that the 7:30pm performance is "family friendly." The late show is recommended for audiences 16 and over.  Go see it!


STUPEFY!  THE 90 MINUTE HARRY POTTER

Adapted by Jaysen Cryer 
Directed by Suki Peters
Emerson Black Box Theatre at Lindenwood University, 2300 West Clay
through December 15 | tickets: $10 - $15
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm & 10:30pm *Added performance on Thursday the 13th at 7:30pm

Cast:
Michael Pierce (Harry Potter), Betsy Bowman (Hermione Granger), Jaysen Cryer (Ron Weasley), and featuring Blaine Adams (George and others), Robert Ashton (Dumbledore and others), James Enstall (every freakin' dark arts professor, except Snape), Roger Erb (Draco and others), John Foughty (Voldemort and others), Max Knocke (Neville and others), Andrew Kuhlman (Hagrid and others), Carl Overly (Fred and others), Jamie Pitt (McGonagall and others), Sarah Porter (Bellatrix and others), Rob Suozzi (Snape and others) and Tasha Zebrowski (Ginny and others).  Morgan Hatfield & Jaiymz Hawkins - creature operators and others.

Creative:
Projection & scenic design by Juan Schwartz; sound design by Jeffrey Roberts; costume design by Katie Donovan; lighting design by Jaime Zayas; projection operator, Bob Singleton; stage manager, Maggy Bort.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

THE FOREIGNER • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Larry Shue's 1984 play is a charming, funny, feel-good affair, perfect for the holiday season, and it's currently getting a splendid production at the Rep, under Edward Stern's spot-on direction.

Everything takes place at Betty Meeks's fishing lodge in small town Georgia.  Englishman Charlie Baker (John Scherer) needs a little time away from the grind of his life.  His wife is ill and hospitalized back home, and in addition to nursing her, he's tired of his job as a proofreader for science-fiction magazines, so his buddy "Froggy" (Brent Langdon) has taken him to the lodge for a little rest and relaxation.  Froggy, an ammunitions expert in the military, has become good friends with Betty, the owner of the lodge, and this getaway has become one of Froggy's favorite places.  The thing is though, Charlie is painfully shy and rather uninteresting.  His wife once described him as being "shatteringly boring".  Ouch!!  She's not the most faithful wife in the world, but Charlie still loves her.  He's also terrified of conversation, so in order to try to spare his friend of the possible horrors that interaction might bring, Froggy tells Betty that Charlie is from another country and doesn't understand English.  He figures that way, everyone will leave him alone.

John Scherer (Charlie Baker).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Even though Charlie becomes even more stressed out when he finds out about Froggy's ploy, once he's placed in the uncomfortable position of being discovered after overhearing a conversation not meant for his ears, he decides it would be easier to play along.  Betty also wants in on a little adventure, and she considers this "foreign" visitor's stay exciting.  Betty's got enough on her mind, anyway.  Her lodge is in danger of being condemned by Owen Musser (Jay Smith), the local property inspector.  In addition to Betty, also staying at the lodge are Rev. David Marshall Lee (Matthew Carlson) and his wealthy fiancĂ©e Catherine (Winslow Corbett), and her rather dimwitted brother Ellard (Casey Predovic).

Carol Schultz (Betty Meeks) and John Scherer (Charlie Baker).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Charlie's self-imposed silence makes him, much to his fascination, privy to more than anyone suspects, while he also unintentionally becomes the center of attention.  Catherine confides in him, Betty delights in his "foreignness", and Ellard "teaches him English".  Charlie also discovers the agenda of the bad guys, Owen and the Reverend, and must figure out a way to thwart their plans without giving himself away.  Things get a bit more serious when Charlie becomes a target of the Ku Klux Klan.  You know, they don't take to foreigners too well.  Charlie makes quite a transformation during the course of the play, and watching him develop a fondness for some and get the upper-hand on others, is very rewarding.

John Scherer (Charlie Baker) and Casey Predovic (Ellard Simms).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Scherer does an excellent job as Charlie Baker, starting off meek and mild, and then blossoming as the play unfolds.  Watching Predovic grow into his own as the dense but endearing Ellard Simms is also a treat.  Ellard and Charlie have quite a few very funny scenes together, including one as they mimic each other at the breakfast table -- their first hilarious foray into communicating with each other.  Langdon as Charlie's good friend Froggy does a fine job as well as Schultz as the enthusiastic Betty Meeks.  The villains, Carlson's Reverend David and Smith's pro-Klan Owen Musser, inhabit their nasty roles well enough to incur "boos" at the curtain.  John Ezell's  two-story set is homey and beautifully detailed, and is complemented by Peter E. Sargent's lights, Rusty Wandall's sound, and Dorothy Marshall Englis's costumes.

It's a fun romp, with a heartwarming message of friendship and acceptance.  It's playing on the mainstage until the 23rd.


Carol Schultz (Betty Meeks), Casey Predovic (Ellard Simms),
John Scherer (Charlie Baker) and Winslow Corbett (Catherine Simms).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
THE FOREIGNER

Written by Larry Shue 
Directed by Edward Stern
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through December 23 | tickets: $19.50 - $79.00
Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesday to Friday at 8pm, selected Wednesdays at 1:30pm, Saturdays at 5pm, selected Saturdays at 9pm, Sundays at 2pm, selected Sundays at 7pm

Cast:
Brent Langdon ("Froggy" LeSueur), John Scherer (Charlie Baker), Carol Schultz (Betty Meeks), Matthew Carlson (Rev. David Marshall Lee), Winslow Corbett (Catherine Simms), Jay Smith (Owen Musser) and Casey Predovic (Ellard Simms).

Creative:
Scenic design by John Ezell; costume design by Dorothy Marshall Englis; lighting design by Peter E. Sargent; sound design by Rusty Wandall; stage manager, Glenn Dunn.

Monday, December 3, 2012

THE DIVINE SISTER • HotCity Theatre

Many of the plays written by Charles Busch are well known for their inclination toward high camp, in which he is frequently featured in drag playing the leading lady.  The Divine Sister was no exception when it debuted off-Broadway in 2010.  In HotCity Theatre's uproarious production, John Flack splendidly takes on the role of Mother Superior.  Under Marty Stanberry's keen direction and a superb supporting cast, this peek behind cloister walls will provide you with plenty of rollicking over-the-topness, including send-ups of everything from Doubt and Agnes of God to The Sound of Music and “The Da Vinci Code”.

Set in 1960's Pittsburgh, Mother Superior is looking to raise some funds so she can modernize St. Veronica's convent school, with the help of Sister Acacius (Kirsten Wylder), the convent's brash wrestling coach.  Don't take this to mean that the Mother Superior is "modern".  She acknowledges the fact that she is living in a time of great social change, but she is determined to do everything she can to stop it!  She is also trying to manage (while Sister Acacius is trying to tolerate) one of the new postulates, Sister Agnes (Alyssa Ward), who's convinced she's "the chosen one", hearing divine voices, witnessing visions, and apparently possessing the power to heal.  St. Veronica's is also hosting the visiting Sister Walburga (Lavonne Byers) from Germany.

Alyssa Ward (Sister Agnes), Lavonne Byers (Sister Walburga)
and Kirsten Wylder (Sister Acacius).
Photo credit: Todd Studios
The additional cast of characters include Mrs. Levinson (Susie Wall), a wealthy neighboring atheist, and Jeremy (Chopper Leifheit), a former reporter looking to make a documentary about the miracle-working Sister Agnes.  He knew, and loved, Mother Superior back in the day when she was known as Susan Appleyard, a rival reporter at the time.  Just about everyone in the show has a past, and the revelations that come out one by one thicken the plot with the most entertaining turn of events.  I can't even tell you.  You just have to see it for yourself.

The whole cast is gifted with strong comic chops, and Flack leads the way, shining as Mother Superior.  As good as Byers is as the stern Sister Walburga, she's even better as the convent's cleaning woman, Mrs. MacDuffie.  Is there any accent she can't do?  Wylder doesn't hold back as the hilariously boisterous Sister Acacius, nor does Alyssa Ward as the  delightfully odd Sister Agnes.  Wonderful performances also by Chopper Leifheit as Jeremy and the creepy Brother Venerius, and Susie Wall as Mrs. Levinson and little Timmy, a young boy who is athletically inept.  James Holborow's set is simple but effective and Maureen Berry's lighting design complements the production, along with Jane Sullivan's costumes.  Patrick Burks adds much to the proceedings with his clever sound design, especially when the melodramatic underscores kick in.

Lavonne Byers (Sister Walburga), Chopper Leifheit (Jeremy),
John Flack (Mother Superior), Kirsten Wylder (Sister Acacius)
and Alyssa Ward (Sister Agnes).
Photo credit: Todd Studios
The Divine Sister is filled to the brim with irreverent piety and parody, that by the way, is best suited for adult audiences.  You'll have a blast.  Check it out.  It's playing until the 15th.


THE DIVINE SISTER

Written by Charles Busch
Directed by Marty Stanberry
Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Blvd.
through December 15 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm, Sundays at 7pm

Cast:
John Flack* (Mother Superior), Alyssa Ward (Sister Agnes), Kirsten Wylder (Sister Acacius), Lavonne Byers (Sister Walburga/Mrs. MacDuffie), Susie Wall* (Mrs. Levinson/Timmy) and Chopper Leifheit* (Jeremy/Brother Venerius).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Lighting design by Maureen Berry; sound design by Patrick Burks; scenic design by James Holborow; costume design by Jane Sullivan.

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