Tuesday, October 29, 2013

THE TRIVIA JOB • OnSite Theatre Company

Ready for a little trivia night action?  "The Trivia Job", written specifically for OnSite by Dan Rubin, makes its debut in Soulard.  In keeping with OnSite's tradition of producing plays in site-specific locations, this one takes place at the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, and includes three rounds of trivia -- "The Good", "The Bad", and "The French."

Some members of the fictional St. Francis Parish are putting on the trivia night to raise money for the expensive repairs needed to restore their tornado-damaged church.  That's their story, anyway.  What they're really planning is a bank heist.  After being welcomed by Allison (Ann Marie Mohr), a rather high-strung member of the parish, she stumps for donations and stalls while we wait for the master of ceremonies.  Listening in to her table, we learn that the trivia night is just a cover for a planned robbery of the Anheuser-Busch Credit Union -- which happens to be just down the street.  Along with Allison, there's her daughter Patricia (Julia Zasso), willing but soft-spoken participant Betsy (Michelle Hand), and the orchestrator of it all, Maxine (Donna Weinsting) -- all playing together on a team called, the "Knitting Ministry".  They were thrown off slightly when the original mc had to bow out after coming down with the shingles, but they called in the unsuspecting Father Calvin Truss (Ben Nordstrom) as a replacement, who finally arrives, gasping and out of breath.  As the night goes on, not only do we get to play trivia, we also get to see how their plan goes down.  Will they be successful?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


George A. Romero's classic horror film may not seem that scary to audiences today, but when "Night of the Living Dead" was released in 1968, it scared the crap out of people, and is believed to have provided the prototype for countless zombie films that followed.  New Line Theatre begins its 23rd season with the musical based on this film, but it's no tongue-in-cheek affair.  What powers this musical isn't fast-paced action, madcap choreography or shambling flesh-eaters.  It's the tension generated by watching six terrified people who find themselves together, trapped in a farmhouse, struggling to survive the night.

Rob Lippert's scenic design makes an immediate impression when you walk in -- the most realistic I think I've ever seen at New Line's current space.  Once the lights go down, it's hard to distinguish where the set ends and where the house begins, making the audience feel as confined as the characters.  In the opening number, "Perfect", the people who have all sought shelter in the farmhouse recall the earlier moments of their day, before everything went wrong.

Monday, October 14, 2013

EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL • Stray Dog Theatre

Five kids, a remote cabin in the woods, and an ancient Book of the Dead.  Nothing could possibly go wrong, right?  Ha!  Stray Dog's camp-tacular blood-fest is back -- complete with the traditional "Splatter Zone" seats.  "Evil Dead: The Musical", based on Sam Raimi's cult-classic horror flicks, "The Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead II", was a sold-out smash when Stray Dog produced it in 2010, so it's back to add a good dose of winking, gory mirth to the Halloween season.

Ash (Paul Cereghino) heads up our motley crew of college kids on their way to the woods for a weekend getaway.  He's taking his girlfriend Linda (Eileen Engel), his best friend Scott (C.E. Fifer), hoping to get lucky with the bubbleheaded Shelly (Angela Bubash) who's there for the ride, with Ash's goofy little sister Cheryl (Anna Skidis) tagging along.  Once at the cabin, they find weapons, a Book of the Dead and a tape recorder in the cellar -- left there by the owner, Professor Knowby.  Naturally, the guys read from the book and play the audio recording to antagonize the girls, and once the incantations from the book are played back, a multitude of demons are unleashed.  Meanwhile, the late professor's daughter, Annie (Brittany Kohl), anxious to investigate her father's work, heads to the cabin with her husband Ed (Michael A. Wells), and their guide Jake (Zachary Stefaniak).  Once they arrive, not expecting that a bunch of kids have broken in, they find that all hell has broken loose.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

EVITA • The Fox

"Evita" began as a rock opera released in 1976.  After lyricist Tim Rice became fascinated with Eva Perón through a radio program, he approached Andrew Lloyd Webber with the idea of a musical based on her life, and Lloyd Webber eventually took him up on it.  The success of the concept album they collaborated on led to a West End premiere in 1978, and a Broadway debut the following year that received seven Tony Awards out of ten nominations.

The musical follows Eva Duarte's iconic rise to power from a lower-middle-class outcast to the adored second wife of Argentine President, Juan Perón.  It begins, and ends, somberly with the death of Evita Perón, and the ensuing outpouring of grief.  From these opening moments, the play, through flashbacks, immediately sucks the audience into the life of this woman, who was deeply loved and revered as a saint by so many in Argentina, and seen by others as a narcissistic social climber.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DIARY OF A MADMAN • Upstream Theater

Nikolai Gogol's 1835 short story, adapted by David Holman, chronicles Poprishchin, a civil servant working in St. Petersburg, and his downward spiral into madness through entries in his diary.  Upstream's compelling production of this first person account of one man's descent, is marvelous.

Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin (an impressive Christopher Harris), is a clerk of the ninth grade whose primary job seems to be sharpening quill pens for his boss.  He journals about his disdain for his job in the solitude of his attic apartment, with only the landlady's Finnish servant, Tuovi (Magan Wiles), for occasional company.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

THE GOOD DOCTOR • New Jewish Theatre

The New Jewish Theatre transports us to 19th century Russia during the course of its season opener, "The Good Doctor".  Five actors play multiple roles across eight vignettes based on the stories of Anton Chekhov, considered to be one of the most prolific writers of short stories in history, through the comedic lens of the show's playwright, Neil Simon, whose style explores relationships, conflict and the "funny/sad" of life with his trademark one-liners and wisecracking humor.

David Wassilak, our narrator and stand-in for Chekhov himself (bearing quite a resemblance), welcomes the audience and ponders his writing.  Lamenting his assumption that his works are doomed to pale in comparison to the writings of his colleagues, the characters from his stories appear onstage and he guides us through a selection of them.  "The Sneeze" starts things off, with a low-level government worker and his wife (Aaron Orion Baker and Alina Volobuyeva) on a rare night out at the theatre, seated right behind his heavily medaled superior and his wife (Jason Grubbe and Teresa Doggett).  After an ill-aimed sneeze that splatters his boss, the clerk cannot possibly apologize enough.  Baker is very funny to watch as his hysterical paranoia about the consequences of his social blunder lead him to make a bad situation worse.