Saturday, February 22, 2014

LOVERS • West End Players Guild

Brian Friel's 1967 play takes a look at the prospects of love with two different couples. There's one young couple anticipating their future, and one older couple, navigating the realities of theirs.

After being greeted by jaunty Irish tunes courtesy of Jessie Evans on the accordion and Sean Belt on the guitar, things kick off with the first act, titled "Winners", featuring two teenagers preparing for their final exams. Mag (Betsy Bowman) and her boyfriend, Joe (John Lampe), aren't able to return to their school because of Mag's unplanned pregnancy. Joe has just secured their new home, overlooking the neighborhood slaughterhouse, so while Mag chatters on about her passionately fancied future with Joe, (and about a million other things), the bookish, academic Joe tries to settle into his studies so he can better his chances of providing a reasonable living for his new family.

Monday, February 10, 2014

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED • Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog's production of Douglas Carter Beane's Tony-award winning, sharp-tongued comedy about the closeted foibles of the showbiz industry, is the perfect thing to knock off the chill of this frosty St. Louis winter.

Diane (Sarajane Alverson), is a Hollywood agent whose ambition is only matched possibly by her problem solving abilities. As she reels us in immediately with a monologue that acclimates us to a Hollywood headspace and introduces us to her most promising client, we learn that rising star, Mitchell Green (Bradley J. Behrmann), is on the brink of cash cow potential. Diane's eyes are firmly fixed on purchasing the film rights of a hot new play -- the perfect star vehicle for Mitchell. The one thing that threatens to derail Diane's plans is Mitchell's "recurring case of homosexuality". Even though she's a lesbian herself, when she finds him and a young hustler he initially ordered in a drunken stupor named Alex (Paul Cereghino) together, she is determined to keep this as far from the press as possible, lest Mitchell lose his potential matinee idol status, and her upward mobility vanishes in a poof of smoke. Mitchell enjoys his time with Alex, though he's not ready to come to grips with his sexuality, and neither is Alex for that matter. Alex has a "sometimes" girlfriend named Ellen (Paige Hackworth) whose chatter when we first meet her makes it clear that she truly deserves her own Bravo reality show.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

FORGET ME NOT • Upstream Theater

Artistic director Philip Boehm has carved out a unique niche for Upstream Theater, finding and producing moving and thought-provoking plays from all over the world. This eloquently potent U.S. debut is no exception, and was greeted with a sold-out house on opening night.

Child migration, the appalling practice of rounding up children and shipping them off to different regions, was undertaken by several countries for varying bureaucratic motivations for decades. These kids where often told that they were orphans when they were not, and led to believe that they were going to start promising new lives with loving families, but in reality faced harsh conditions in brutal work camps.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

THE WHIPPING MAN • New Jewish Theatre

Matthew Lopez's "The Whipping Man" is currently playing at the New Jewish Theatre, and after a solid production at the Black Rep last year, we're lucky enough to have another opportunity to see this engrossing play in an equally strong showing.

It's 1865 in Richmond, Virginia, and in the midst of a thunderstorm, Confederate soldier Caleb DeLeon (Austin Pierce) hobbles into his family home. The mansion has been picked almost clean and suffered heavy damage from the war, and after Caleb collapses on the floor, suffering from a wound to his leg, he finds himself facing the business end of a shotgun. The man on the other end is Simon (J. Samuel Davis), a former slave of Caleb's family, but now a free man, and they are happy to see each other. Simon has stayed behind to wait for his wife and daughter to return. They, along with Caleb's father, have gone to safer locations to wait out the post Civil War chaos, and once they are reunited Simon plans to build a house with the money his former master has promised him. A closer inspection of Caleb's week-old gunshot wound makes it clear to Simon that Caleb's leg will have to be amputated before the gangrene that has set in becomes too advanced.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

THE OTHER PLACE • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (Studio Theatre)

After a world-premiere off-Broadway in 2011 and a well-received Broadway run a couple of years later, playwright Sharr White's smartly constructed drama settles into the Rep's studio space -- an engrossing production that straps the audience in for a gripping tour of a free-fall.  My fave...

Juliana Smithton (Kate Levy) is a medical research scientist who now spends her time representing a neurological drug she helped develop. We join her as she is pitching this drug at a convention in St. Thomas. She is poised and a little cocky, but during her presentation, she is distracted by a young girl in a yellow bikini among the audience. Juliana is thrown off. Thrown off to the point where her self-possessed, assured demeanor dissolves into confusion.

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