Uncommonly Playful

You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a theater offering

You say there's not enough theater in St. Louis? This week there are eleven -- count 'em, eleven-- new shows in town. Musicals, dramas, comedies, mysteries. Professional, amateur. Family, adult. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Apollo: To the Moon is a one-person show commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution. This weekend at the Missouri History Museum, Kevin Reese will give three daytime performances of this multimedia account about the glory days of NASA. Sponsored by Metro Theater Company, March 27-28 (314-997-6777).

Blithe Spirit is Noel Coward's comedy-fantasy about a wife who returns from the dead to haunt her remarried husband. Madame Arcati, the local medium, will be portrayed by Dorothy Davis. Anyone who saw Davis triumph three seasons ago in Coward's Relative Values at the Kirkwood Theatre Guild should welcome this return matchup between author and actress. West End Players Guild, March 26-April 4 (314-367-0025).

Director-choreographer Bob Fosse was only 60 when he died in 1987. Twelve years later, Fosse -- a celebration of his unique dancing style -- ran on Broadway for more than 1,000 performances. This cornucopia of numbers from stage, film and TV is enough to sate even the most ardent buff. Fossecomes to the Touhill Performing Arts Center for one performance only, Thursday, March 25 (314-516-4949).

Blithe Spirit isn't the only new comedy populated by ghosts. The cast of I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick includes the ghost of John Barrymore, one of the most acclaimed Hamlets of the past century -- and, incidentally, Drew's grandfather. Rudnick admits to never having heard a joke he didn't like, and this spoof about an actor's travails while playing the moody Dane is fraught with laughs. Off Center Theatre Company, March 26-April 4 (314-719-2855).

Kid Peculiar at the Coral Court Motel by Washington University playwright-in-residence Carter Lewis receives its world premiere this weekend. Set in St. Louis' favorite Route 66 no-tell motel on the eve of the 1992 Clinton-Bush-Perot presidential debate at Washington U., Kid Peculiar concerns the reunion between an estranged mother and son. A. E. Hotchner Studio Theater, March 25-28 (314-935-6543).

The Last Five Years, Jason Robert Brown's time-traveling, two-character musical opens at the St. Louis Rep Studio, March 24-April 18 (314-968-4925). For more info click here.

When it was first produced in the mid-1960s, Joe Orton's satirical farce Loot was deemed irreverent, shocking and hilarious. Four decades later it still is. Orton viewed Loot -- most of whose nasty hijinks involve a coffin -- as a comedy for young people, so it should find an appreciative audience when staged by the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts, March 24-April 4 (314-968-7128).

My Left Breast, the Obie Award-winning monologue written and performed by Susan Miller, is an autobiographical account of Miller's near-fatal encounter with breast cancer. The one-woman play, which contains mature language and subject matter, is presented at Fontbonne University by City Theatre, March 26-April 4 (314-719-2855). The March 28 Sunday matinee is a benefit for the St. Louis Breast Cancer Coalition. For this performance only, call 314-989-1111.

On the lighter side there's Pump Boys and Dinettes. The pump boys run the filling station across the highway; the dinettes are the Cupp sisters, who operate the Double Cupp Diner. For those who like country music -- or send-ups of same -- this musical revue is easy on the ears. Alton Little Theater, March 26-April 4 (618-462-6562).

When The Rocky Horror Show opened on Broadway in 1975, it only survived 45 performances. But over the decades it's made up for that failure with a maniacal vengeance. The latest incarnation is out at Faust Park, which is still the best place in town to combine theatergoing with carousel riding. A free spin on the venerable Forest Park Highlands carousel should only enhance Rocky Horror's idiosyncratic charms. Curtain Call Repertory Theatre, March 26-April 4 (636-346-7707).

Rope is the weekend's second play to center its action on a coffin -- though its tone is a far cry from Loot. This murder mystery by Patrick Hamilton (best remembered for his classic thriller Angel Street) was originally staged in 1929 as Rope's End. Alfred Hitchcock shortened the title to Rope for his 1948 film version, and it's remained Rope ever since. Rarely staged, this qualifies as the week's most intriguing curiosity. Chesterfield Community Theater, March 25-April 3 (636-532-6515, extension 505).

 
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