Saturday, August 29, 2015

ONE FLEA SPARE • Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

SATE’s mid-season production of Naomi Wallace’s “One Flea Spare” feels aptly at home in the intimate space of The Chapel. Her introspective account of the inhabitants in a home under a 28-day quarantine in bubonic plague-ravaged London evokes images that stick in your mind. Under the direction of Ellie Schwetye, the calamitous breakdown of society and the classes are hauntingly brought to life.

Mr. and Mrs. Snelgrave (Joe Hanrahan and Kelley Weber) are a wealthy couple not allowed to leave their house, with frequent visits and grim updates from Kabe (Andrew Kuhlman), a crooked, city appointed guard charged with keeping the quarantine enforced, and handing out meager provisions to those still living.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

SPELLBOUND! A MUSICAL FABLE • Stray Dog Theatre

“Spellbound! A Musical Fable” was originally conceived in 1994 by Stray Dog’s artistic director, Gary F. Bell and Robert L. White. Recently taken off the shelf and given the once-over, Bell gave it a world premiere that closed out a strong Stray Dog season. Still in its workshop stage, "Spellbound!" draws on familiar fairy tales and lesser known folklore from Japan, India, Germany, Nigeria and England, and it’s an exciting show with enchanting potential.

An immediate mood greeted you walking into the Abbey’s space. Rob Lippert’s scenic design featured tall movable trees, multi-leveled tree-top platforms, and full-moon landscapes complemented by Tyler Duenow’s lights. The show’s opening number, “Spellbound”, sets you firmly into the jungles of Samaren, where Arabella, a “Cinderella-type” heroine, authentically played by a firm-voiced, sweet-faced Meadow Tien Nguy, is at the beck and call of her stepmother, an evil, black magic enchantress called Layla, diabolically portrayed by Deborah Sharn (her excellent wig is courtesy of Priscilla Case), who has her eye on ruling the land. Maria Bartolotta and Eileen Engel are wickedly funny as Arabella’s stepsisters, Muchaneta and Kokumo, and Patrick Kelly is Bangababo, Arabella’s dad -- a market vendor still vulnerable to Layla’s spells.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF HEDDA GABLER • St. Louis Shakespeare

Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama, “Hedda Gabler,” premiered in 1891, but Jeff Whitty’s 2012 comedy picks up where Ibsen’s left off, with Hedda (Emily Baker), just having put a bullet in her head, waking up in a messy limbo of sorts on the Cul de Sac Of The Tragic Heroines. She, along with Gone With The Wind’s house slave Mammy (Jeanitta Perkins), and several other theatrical, film and television figures of note, are doomed to repeatedly play out the patterns their creators have given them, unable to re-write their own destinies. Pulling off the right tone for this kind of play is tricky, but under the sharp direction of St. Louis Shakespeare’s new artistic director, Suki Peters, and the leading performances of a fiercely engaging Baker and a quietly heroic Perkins and strong supporting players, this production soars.

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