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Monday, September 30, 2013

LONESOME HOLLOW • West End Players Guild

The residents of playwright Lee Blessing's "Lonesome Hollow" are sex offenders.  The town, set up to keep predators removed from the general population, is overseen by a private company, and those who live there are subject to the zealous authority of the staff, who operate with no interference.  The warped extremes and erosion of civil liberties that take place within this colony serve to scrutinize the definition of crime, the system of punishment and the likelihood of redemption.  Though Blessing paints his "soon-ish" scenario with forcible strokes, the premise is provocative, and made uncomfortably relevant by the recent developments in Farmington, Missouri that have been in the news lately.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

CHICAGO • The Fox

Currently in town for a quick stop at the Fox is Kander and Ebb's 1975 musical, "Chicago".  This story of murder, greed, corruption, and violence in the late twenties, bolstered with an irresistible vaudeville-styled score and the sleek choreography of Bob Fosse, has remained a favorite for decades, holding the record for the longest-running musical revival in Broadway history.

Friday, September 20, 2013

CABARET • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep is starting its 47th season with a stunning production of "Cabaret", winner of eight Tony Awards when it premiered in 1966.  The original source material for "Cabaret" was Christopher Isherwood's 1939 semi-autobiographical short novel, "Goodbye to Berlin".  This was adapted into John Van Druten's play, "I Am a Camera" in 1951.

There have been many takes on this classic about 1930's Berlin and the excesses enjoyed by the free-spirits at the Kit Kat Club whose eyes remain shut to Hitler's rise to power, but this Rep production, brilliantly directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, is absorbing and vibrantly fresh with an ominously beguiling tone.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

OUR TOWN • Insight Theatre Company

Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize winning drama about the lives, loves and deaths in Grover's Corners has been around since 1938, and Insight Theatre is celebrating the play's 75th anniversary with a marvelous staging.  Whether you've seen it before or not, this production is worth a look.

The three acts of "Our Town", titled Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and Death and Eternity, detail the ordinary activities of residents living in a small New Hampshire town between 1901 and 1913.  The Stage Manager (Joneal Joplin) serves as our genial host for the evening, and addressing us directly, tells us about the play, the director and the cast we'll be seeing.  Then he gives us the lay of the land of Grover's Corners on a typical day at dawn.  While he identifies the schools, churches and grocery stores, cast members are chalking out an illustration of the town against a black surface at the back of the stage.  (A very cool touch from the director, but I'll get to that in a minute.)  We soon come to meet neighboring families -- the Webb family and the Gibbs family, in the midst of their daily routines.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE • HotCityTheatre

"Entertaining Mr. Sloane", written by English playwright Joe Orton, is currently getting a jaunty revival at HotCity.  This sordid little comedy that premiered in 1964 may have lost some of its shock value over the years, but none of the fascination in watching these characters behaving badly.

Kath (Lavonne Byers), who lives on the edge of a dumping site with her grumpy father, Kemp (Bill Grivna), or “Dada” as she calls him, comes home one day with young, good-looking Mr. Sloane (Paul Cereghino), whom she says she met at the library.  Sloane, immediately identifiable as a smooth opportunist, overflowing with self-assured swagger, needs a room, and Kath, about 20 years his senior, is desperate to have him.  REALLY desperate.  She swears that her intentions toward Sloane are maternal, but the barely restrained excitement she displays when tending a wound of his (just inside his thigh, wouldn't you know), says otherwise.  While they both take turns seducing each other, Kath's brother Ed (Michael James Reed) stops by.  His visits are rare because of a falling out he had with his dad, but he wants to meet this Mr. Sloane.  Ed has an inflated ego (Lord only knows why), and thinks of himself as a successful, honorable type, but his repressed attraction to Mr. Sloane betrays him, too.  He insists on having a few words with Sloane, and decides that this young orphan needs guidance with a steady hand, and hatches an idea to employ Sloane as his chauffeur.  Little leather black cap and everything.  Sloane goes with the flow, engaging in conversations with Ed about erotics…  oops, I mean, athletics, and agrees to Ed's suggestions, much to the chagrin of his sister who wants Sloane all to herself.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

PARADE • R-S Theatrics

In 1913, Leo Frank, a Jewish Yankee living in Atlanta, was accused of raping and murdering 13-year-old Mary Phagan, an employee at the National Pencil Factory where Frank worked as the superintendent.  He was jailed for two years, then kidnapped and lynched in 1915.  So yeah, let's make a musical out of that, right?  In 1998, Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown did, and transformed these horrible real-life series of events into a beautifully scored musical that garnered Tony Awards for best book and best score, though it had a relatively short run of 85 performances.  It's a challenging piece, so what better company to stage it than one that seems always up for a challenge -- R-S Theatrics.

The play begins with a young soldier (Zach Wachter) heading off to the Civil War, taking in his views of the "Old Red Hills of Home".  Fast forward to 1913, and Atlanta, still bruised from having had their butts kicked almost fifty years earlier, is not a place where Leo Frank (Pete Winfrey), a Jew from Brooklyn, has ever felt comfortable.  As an outsider, he aloofly regards the South as "the land that time forgot".  His wife Lucille (Jennifer Theby-Quinn), a non-practicing Jew, is happy in her native Georgia and glad she married well, but is still dissatisfied with her lot, and in some ways couldn't seem more different from her husband.

Monday, September 2, 2013

SWEENEY TODD OBCR vs. Film Soundtrack - "God, That's Good!" • Video Ramblings

Okay so, I got a little bored over the Labor Day weekend and did this.  Yes, sometimes having a YouTube Channel is a dangerous thing…  :)

Thanks for watching!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

COMPLICATED LIVES: AN EVENING OF SHORT PLAYS • Stray Dog Theatre | WHAMMY! THE SEVEN SECRETS TO A SANE SELF • HotCity Theatre

I saw a couple of cool theatre things in August that have ended, but wanted to give a little shout-out to, so let's start with…

COMPLICATED LIVES: AN EVENING OF SHORT PLAYS

Stray Dog Theatre annually hosts a New Works Laboratory where new plays are workshopped, with free performances and encouragement to participate in a talk-back after the show with the playwright and cast.  It's a neat opportunity to be in on the creative process as these pieces-in-progress ready for further development.  This year, four short plays by St. Louis actor and playwright, Stephen Peirick, were featured in a presentation called "Complicated Lives".

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