Thursday, October 29, 2015


The Fox Theatre’s regional premiere of “Matilda,” a British import that has won multiple awards, has the power of knowledge and empowerment at its heart, with a little genius at its center, who ultimately conquers the adults who try to keep her down.

Matilda Wormwood (Mabel Tyler) was born to possibly the worst parents on the face of the planet. Mrs. Wormwood (Cassie Silva) is a flighty, ballroom dancing obsessed mom, and Mr. Wormwood (Quinn Mattfeld), a less than honorable car salesman with quite a head of hair, is a dad dismissive of Matilda, still unable to accept she’s a girl, and not the second son he had hoped for. Both parents are infuriated with Matilda’s love of books and her voracious reading, and totally oblivious to her extraordinary intelligence. Matilda's only solace is found at the library, where she captivates the librarian, Mrs. Phelps (Ora Jones), with her stories. Unfortunately, things get worse for Matilda once she’s enrolled in Crunchem Hall Elementary, a school that’s run by a tyrannical Miss Trunchbull (Bryce Ryness in drag), who is determined to make the kids’ lives a living hell, often referring to them as maggots. Luckily for Matilda, there’s Miss Honey (Jennifer Blood), a teacher at the school who’s an ally to the kids and an admirer of Matilda’s brilliance, but also under the thumb of the school's headmistress. Matilda comes to learn that Miss Honey also had a sad childhood, and together, they conspire to stand up to Trunchbull.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

ANGEL STREET (GASLIGHT) • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

It’s the perfect time of year for the Rep’s current Mainstage production -- right when Autumn’s chill starts to set in. Patrick Hamilton’s dramatic thriller premiered on the West End in 1938 under the simple name, “Gas Light,” but opened under the title “Angel Street” when it debuted in New York a few years later. The popularity of the play and the film adaptations that followed, resulted in the coining of the term “gas-lighting,” defined as “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.”

That’s precisely what’s going down in the gloomy Manningham home on Angel Street in 1880’s London.

Monday, October 19, 2015

DOGFIGHT • Stray Dog Theatre

“Dogfight” takes place in November, 1963, as a group of rambunctious young Marines, fresh out of boot-camp, head out for a testosterone-fueled night on the town in San Francisco before they ship off to Vietnam. Based on the 1991 film that bears the same title starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, Stray Dog’s season opening production, skillfully directed by Justin Been, presents a heady mix of morality, mortality and poignancy in this rousing coming-of-age story.

The title refers to a callous tradition -- a party where the Marine who brings the ugliest date wins a cash prize, and privates Eddie Birdlace (Brendan Ochs) and his two best buddies, Boland (Luke Steingruby) and Bernstein (Kevin O'Brien) plan to scour the town in search of the homeliest girl to be judged. Eddie meets a shy, guitar-playing Rose Fenny (Shannon Cothran), working in her mom’s diner, and asks her to join him for a night out, and she hesitantly agrees, excited, but with no idea of what's in store. The party is in full swing by the time Eddie and Rose arrive, and while Boland and Bernstein are anxious for the slow dance, where the dogfight entrants are judged, Eddie’s reluctance to go through with it is eventually overcome by "Semper Fi" bravado, and naturally, the evening doesn’t go well. Not all of the women are taken off guard though. Marcy (Sara Rae Womack), a shrewd street-walker in on the take, refuses to be a victim of the game. Eddie’s conscience prompts him to take Rose out on a proper date, and in the process of falling for her, the both of them (the "hawk" and the "dove") come into their own in different ways.

Monday, October 12, 2015

HEATHERS • New Line Theatre

“People will look at the ashes of Westerburg and say, ‘Now there's a school that self-destructed, not because society didn't care, but because the school was society.”’ That line that J.D. says strikes a core truth in Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy’s black musical comedy “Heathers,” based on Daniel Waters and Michael Lehmann’s 1988 cult classic film. That sentiment is also a thread that runs through many New Line Theatre productions, so it’s appropriate that New Line begins its 25th anniversary season with this surprising new musical. It’s also pretty cool that they open in a sweet new theatre space it can permanently call home -- the Marcelle in Grand Center.

The most popular clique in Westerburg high school revolves around a fearsome trio of Heathers -- Heather Chandler (Sicily Mathenia), Heather Duke (Cameisha Cotton) and Heather McNamara (Larissa White). The Heathers, along with a couple of meathead jocks, Ram (Omega Jones) and Kurt (Clayton Humburg), revel in their vicious exhibitions of supremacy, and are willing to humiliate anyone who isn’t popular enough to have a place within their orbit.