Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SWEENEY TODD • Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's musical thriller has been captivating audiences since 1979, and has enjoyed not only theatre, but opera house productions from companies all over the world.  I read part of an article from a guy named Michael Dale that said, “Sweeney Todd is a musical when you wonder why Mrs. Lovett takes her bow after Sweeney.  Sweeney Todd is an opera when you wonder why the mezzo takes her bow after the soprano.”  Ha!  Regardless of whether you consider Sweeney Todd an opera or a musical, Opera Theatre's production of this darkly comic classic is marvelous.  Sweeney Todd also happens to be one of my favorites, and I love me some Sondheim, so please bear with me while I ramble for a minute…

Sunday, May 27, 2012

INSIDIOUS • The Black Rep

Ibn Shabazz's Insidious had its 2010 premiere at Road Less Traveled Productions in Buffalo, New York, and the Black Rep's production of this St. Louis premiere, the play's second mounting, is fearless.  Insidious takes an unblinking look at addiction, promiscuity and men on the "down low" -- men who engage in unprotected sex with other men, while maintaining relationships with girlfriends and wives.  Because of its adult language and themes, I would leave the kids at home for this one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

THE NEW CENTURY • Max & Louie Productions

Paul Rudnick's 2007 play is made up of vignettes, primarily featuring monologues by its main characters who all have one thing in common -- they are, or have been affected by, someone gay.  This set-up could potentially present as a virtual pride parade of stereotypical characters.  Well, it kinda does.  In between the ready-made laughs, and there are many, you can spot moments of introspection from certain characters, but those delicate strokes are often layered over with the script's heavier-handed brush strokes of over-the-top clichés.

The festivities begin with Helene Nadler (Stellie Siteman), self-proclaimed "most loving mother of all time".  Why?  Well, she's got a lesbian daughter, actually two, except one is transgender.  Then there's her son David, also gay, with fetishes for leather and scatology <-- don't ask.  That's why I made it a link.  In a presentation she's giving to the “Parents of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, the Transgendered, the Questioning, the Curious, the Creatively Concerned and Others” group, she fiercely defends her love for her children, but you can tell that despite her claims of being the most accepting mother in the world, she's really trying to convince herself that her children are truly okay.  Stellie Siteman plays up Helene's enthusiasm, but the over-long narrative loses steam near the end.  It also gets a little bizarre as she trots out her son, fully clad in leather, to show how submissive and obedient he is.  Whaa?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

JACOB AND JACK • New Jewish Theatre

In the final production of NJT's 15th season, actors play double roles and time-travel from the present day to the 1930's in a nifty little backstage romp.  It's always fun watching actors play actors, right?

Jack Shore (Bobby Miller) is an actor who's mostly known for his television commercials.  He's agreed to appear in a staged reading at a benefit for his mother's Ladies Club, that pays tribute to his grandfather Jacob Shemerinsky, a star of the Yiddish theatre.  In addition to not believing in rehearsing, Jack also has an eye for the ladies, and his latest target is a talented young actor named Robin (Julie Layton), also taking part in the reading.  She's so talented that Jack finds himself reconsidering his stance on not memorizing lines.  His flirting ends up pissing off his wife Lisa (Kari Ely), also an actor, also involved in the reading.  Jack, his insecurities, and his ego are placated and tolerated by his manager Ted (Terry Meddows) and they are both checked in on by the show's "gay as a picnic" stage manager Don (Justin Ivan Brown), and occasionally Jack's enthusiastic mom, Esther (Donna Weinsting).  That's the present day situation.