Sunday, November 17, 2013

PTERODACTYLS • St. Louis Actors' Studio

This 1993 comedy mines the depths of a popular trope -- the dysfunctional family.  But the bite in playwright Nicky Silver's black comedy plunges it into the darkest of places, and it's getting a smart production at St. Louis Actors' Studio.  It starts with a history lesson of sorts presented by Todd Duncan (Nathan Bush).  After laying out an assortment of general misinformation, he talks about the dinosaurs and their extinction.  Then, we get introduced to a new variety of antiques headed for annihilation -- his family.

He has returned to his well-to-do Philadelphia home after five years to inform them that he's contracted AIDS and needs a place to stay.  Todd's sister Emma (Betsy Bowman), plagued with psychosomatic illnesses, is engaged to "Salad City" employee and film geek Tommy (James Slover), after a three week courtship.  When we meet Todd's mother Grace (Penny Kols), she breezes home after shopping in what seems like a whirlwind tour of her own living room.  She maintains the facade of being the matriarch of a relevant family by drinking and planning events.  Her husband Arthur (Whit Reichert), a bank president, appears to have good intentions in his attempt at being a good father, but tends to confuse the memories of his own childhood with that of his childrens'.

Monday, November 11, 2013

ALL IS CALM: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914 • Mustard Seed Theatre

This a capella musical documents a true and all too brief period of time during the First World War on Christmas Eve.  At dawn, only months into the war, after hearing and trading carols across the trenches, a German soldier crossed the lines of the Western front into no-man's-land wishing a "Merry Christmas" in native tongues.  Seeing that he was unarmed, British and French soldiers eventually did the same.  They ended up meeting in the middle where they exchanged gifts of puddings and cigarettes, sang songs, played a little soccer, and together buried their dead.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

FREUD'S LAST SESSION • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (Studio Theatre)

Mark St. Germain's 2009 play, inspired by Dr. Armand Nicholi Jr.'s book, The Question of Goddepicts a fictional meeting between Sigmund Freud, an atheist, and C. S. Lewis, a former atheist and now devout Christian.  As you can imagine, the play offers a good dose of intellectual banter along with a little humor, including conversations about the concept of God, myth, suffering, sadomasochism and music.  Among other things.

Freud (Barry Mulholland) has invited Lewis (Jim Butz) to his London home to meet him.  Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, is curious about how Lewis, a writer and scholar, could compromise his intellect by embracing Christianity.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

THE WOMAN IN BLACK • Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Stephen Mallatratt's 1987 play was adapted from Susan Hill's book bearing the same name, and it continues Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble's "Season of the Monster."  In London where "The Woman in Black" debuted, it still holds the record as the second longest-running non-musical play in the history of the West End, after Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap."  The Chapel's architectural features and intimate theatre space make it a fitting spot for this Victorian-era ghost story that's set in an empty theatre in London.

We begin with Mr. Arthur Kipps (B. Weller) rushing through a passage he's reading from a manuscript.  After being criticized for his horrible delivery, the Actor (Jared Sanz-Agero), steps onto the stage and tries to give Kipps some tips for a better, more emotional performance.  He tells him that if he wishes to perform this piece and keep the attention of the audience, it's going to have to be trimmed down considerably as well.