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Sunday, January 26, 2014

SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS • COCA

"Swallows and Amazons" is being presented as part of a new "COCA Presents" series that focuses on producing more of the Center of Creative Arts' own family-friendly theatre in St. Louis with local talent.  Based on a series of books first published in 1930 by Arthur Ransome and adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson, "Swallows" is getting its American premiere right here in town.

When an older Ms. Walker (Taylor Pietz) picks up a feather duster, her memories take her, and us, back to her childhood with her siblings where their playtime adventures on a boat called the Swallow were only limited by their own imaginations.

Monday, January 20, 2014

THE RIDE DOWN MOUNT MORGAN • St. Louis Actors' Studio

Arthur Miller is considered one of America's greatest playwrights, giving us "All My Sons", "Death of a Salesman", "An Enemy of the People", "The Crucible", "A View from the Bridge" and "The Price", among many others.  He wrote this play when he was in his seventies, and while the central character of his 1991 comedic drama, Lyman Felt, is a charming, sexually robust, wealthy insurance executive in his fifties, he's also a racist, selfish, arrogant douchebag.  After waking up in a hospital bed, nearly dead from crashing his car on an icy mountain road, Lyman is terrified to hear the news that a "Mrs. Felt" is in the waiting room.  Oh, did I mention? -- he's also a bigamist with currently two possible Mrs. Felts.  That's the premise that kicks off this strong production from St. Louis Actors' Studio that fits nicely within its "Sins of the Father" season.

Lyman (John Pierson) has been living the high-life for quite some time, but his bigamy is laid bare when Theodora (Amy Loui), his conventional, steadfast wife of over thirty years (ahem, long fur coat) meets Leah (Julie Layton), his younger, racier, trophy wife of nine years (ahem, slightly shorter "less expensive" looking fur coat), in the waiting room of Clearhaven Memorial Hospital in Elmira, New York.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

OPUS • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

While members of a string quartet may enjoy more autonomy than members of an orchestra, the strong opinions of an intimate group of talented musicians is a ready mixture for conflict.  Michael Hollinger, a violist-turned-playwright, takes a look at the inner-workings of the fictional "Lazara Quartet" in his 2006 play, "Opus", currently receiving a slick production at the Rep.

During a brief introduction to the original members of the quartet -- violinists, Elliot (Joseph O'Neil) and Alan (Greg Jackson), violist Dorian (Matthew Boston) and cellist Carl (Chris Hietikko), the love for the music and their instruments rings true, and their predicament of losing Dorian who has recently disappeared, becomes apparent.  We begin as Grace (Rachael Jenison), an incredibly talented young violist, auditions for Dorian's spot and impresses the group with her sight-reading.  She is offered the job on the spot, but is also considering a job as principal viola at the Pittsburgh Symphony.  She ends up taking the job in the quartet, opting not to be a "slave to the baton",  and though she's excited for the unique opportunity, she's also a little anxious about joining this group -- aware of the notoriously contentious dynamics within quartets in general, and this one in particular.  With a televised appearance at the White House coming up in less than a week, rehearsals begin immediately and it's crucial that Grace learn the music, and gain her footing within the Lazara Quartet quickly.

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