Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Camelot Stages St. Louis closes its season with a triumphant Camelot, featuring stunning visual elements, topnotch acting and a well-sung, witty score. Christopher Guilmet is an energetic Arthur whose love for Guinevere and Lancelot is heart-wrenching. Eileen Ward creates a Guinevere believably torn between her love for both men, and Edward Watts is Ken-doll perfect as Lancelot. The sexual tension between Ward and Watts sizzles as the evil Mordred (Jeffrey C. Wolf) plots Arthur's downfall. The male supporting cast shows off their pecs as the knights of the leather-fetish table in "Fie on Goodness," while the women get their chance to flutter prettily in pastels for "The Lusty Month of May." Through October 3 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 S. Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Call 314-821-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.com. (Deanna Jent)

The Crucible Americans have always loved a good witch hunt. Arthur Miller's howl about the chilling excesses of the 1950s McCarthy era, which here the playwright not so subtly removes to the 1692 Salem witch trials, makes for epic and involving theater. The Rep has done an effective job of pretending that Miller's tragedy is not a 50-year-old classic -- at its best this production rings so immediate and true, the play might have been written last month. Among the actors, special kudos to Dane Knell as wizened old Giles Corey; Knell, whose very features seem to have been eroded by too much ocean air, evokes the play's salty spirit. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through October 8 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Call 314-968-4925. (Dennis Brown)

Late Night Catechism Gum-lovers beware: Sister will tolerate no chewing in her class. Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan's long-running play is back at the Grandel, this time starring veteran Chicago improv performer Mary Beth Burns. A combination of religious instruction, audience interaction and game-show antics, Catechism is a wildly witty and slightly scary encounter with the myths and realities of Catholicism. The delight of the show is Burns' constant interplay with the audience. Whisperers are called to order. Latecomers are fined. Everyone must address Sister in full sentences and prizes are awarded for correct answers. With so much of each performance depending on audience responses for fuel, Catechism is clearly a different show each night, and Burns seems to revel in that. Her twinkling eyes search the audience for new material even as she works details from earlier stories into running gags. Class is in session for an open-ended run upstairs at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Call 314-534-1111. (DJ)

Chandra Thomas, Anderson Matthews  and Tim 
Altmeyer in the Rep's Crucible.
J. Bruce Summers
Chandra Thomas, Anderson Matthews and Tim Altmeyer in the Rep's Crucible.
Marat/Sade at the Soulard Theatre
Marat/Sade at the Soulard Theatre

Marat/Sade This Vietnam-era play-within-a-play is a provocative blend of theatricality and discourse, melody and mayhem. As inmates in an asylum strive to re-enact the murder of French Revolution martyr Jean-Paul Marat, the Marquis de Sade rages against the "moral guardians" who try to control society. A who's who of local actors -- eager to participate in ECHO Theater's rare production of this landmark piece of political theater -- includes Anna Blair, Lavonne Byers, Chopper Leifheit, Sara Renchen, Kelly Schnider and Doug Shelton as Sade. The most seditious performance of all is delivered by Terry Meddows, whose portrayal of an inmate begins as a comic illustration come to life and by evening's end becomes pitiful and terrifying. Through September 26 at the Soulard Theater, 1921 South Ninth Street. Call 314-995-2123. (DB)

Tell Me Somethin' Good The Black Rep offers an affectionate musical revue that begins in the 1950s, back when guys in white tuxedos with pink cummerbunds swayed to the music as Jackie Wilson cried "Lonely Teardrops" and the Flamingos insisted "I Only Have Eyes for You." As the evening (conceived and directed by Ron Himes) unspools, the music fast-forwards through the decades and girls who begin the night in pleated skirts end up looking like drill sergeants. Not that this notion of a musical is interested in making a statement -- the priority is sound. A spirited cast (seven women, four men) steamrolls its way from Frankie Lymon to Barry White to Isaac Hayes, propelled by a five-man band that would be the envy of any prom-dance steering committee. Performed by the St. Louis Black Repertory Company September 24-26 at the Orthwein Theater on the campus of Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School, 101 North Warson Road, Ladue. Call 314-995-7367. (DB)

 
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