Tuesday, September 29, 2015

SEMINAR • St. Louis Actors' Studio

What happens when you put four hopeful writers, eager to be published, in a room with a once acclaimed novelist? Well, the punchline in Theresa Rebeck’s 2011 play is laced with a constant current of competition -- on a couple of different levels, and director Elizabeth Helman and her able cast smartly elevate the themes in a seemingly slight script in STLAS’s 9th season opener.

Four young writers have shelled out $5,000 for a 10 week writing seminar under the tutelage of Leonard (John Pierson), a known literary hotshot. His students include the well-to-do Kate (Taylor Pietz), who hosts the sessions in her spacious Upper West Side, rent-controlled apartment, sweater-vested Douglas (Nathan Bush), who has family connections in publishing but lacks real promise, the provocative Izzy (Alicia Smith), whose wish to be published is only seconded by her desire to appear nude on a New York Magazine cover, and Martin (Jason Contini), a fan of the Mets and Kerouac, and the last hold-out when it comes to handing over his work to be judged.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

THE WORLD BEGUN • Shakespeare in the Streets: Old North St. Louis

Last weekend, Shakespeare in the Streets took to Old North St. Louis -- at the intersection of N. 14th and Montgomery streets, to be exact. For the past four years, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has mounted an original work based on one of Shakespeare’s plays in one of the city’s neighborhoods, with contributions from the community’s residents for a weekend of free performances. This year Shakespeare in the Streets performed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, “Twelfth Night” called "The World Begun" written by Nancy Bell, playwright-in-residence at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.

After a rousing warm-up by the band, Renaissance Blues, Viola (Marlene René Coveyou) finds herself out of space and time -- a 16th century woman who winds up in 21st century St. Louis after being shipwrecked, mourning the twin brother she thinks is dead. The shipwreck was gracefully represented by dancers from Jennifer Medina’s Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company. Once she gets her bearings, a librarian named Mike (Patrick Blindauer) gets Viola up to speed on the neighborhood, and she ends up disguising herself as a man, “Cesario”, and takes a job at Headhunters, the local barber shop, and falls for one of the barbers, Orsino (Lawd Gabriel). But Orsino has his eye on Olivia, the podiatrist (Erin Renée Roberts), and sends Cesario to her to communicate his love, but Olivia ends up falling for Cesario -- the disguised Viola.

Monday, September 21, 2015

ALL THE WAY • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Civil rights, the Constitution, race riots and the bare-knuckle business of politics. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that the focal points that take center stage in Robert Schenkkan’s Tony award winning play were set in the present. But “All the Way” covers the first 11 months of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Presidency in 1963, immediately following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It’s fictional, but the Rep’s strapping 49th season opener is based on true events, and the themes in this local premiere take you by surprise with a resonance that’s eerie, and frankly, quite sobering.

LBJ’s strategic maneuvering to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed is a testament to his tenacity, fighting tooth and nail to bend Congress to his will.

Monday, September 7, 2015

MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY • R-S Theatrics

Anne Washburn’s 2012 three-act play begins sometime in “the very near future,” after an apocalypse of nuclear proportions. The group of survivors in “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play” travel with notebooks containing the names of loved ones. Everyone has a hunting knife or a gun, and lithium batteries are worth their weight in gold. They’re all essentially starting their world from scratch, and about the only thing they have to regain some semblance of the lives they had before, are stories. That’s where “The Simpsons” comes in.

The nation’s power plants have failed leaving everyone in darkness, and to pass the time and ward off fear, a group of survivors camped around a fire in the woods try to piece together the details of a 1993 Simpsons episode called ”Cape Feare” that was inspired from the 1991 psychological thriller Cape Fear (a remake of the 1962 film). In the episode, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie enroll in the Witness Relocation Program and move to Terror Lake to escape Sideshow Bob, who after being paroled from prison has been threatening to kill Bart to settle a long-held grudge. This episode of “The Simpsons” is peppered with cultural references (as most Simpsons episodes were) -- everything from The Night of the Hunter to Gilbert & Sullivan.

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