Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Crimes of the Heart Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama about life and love in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, is only 21 years old, but already it has settled into a comfortable niche between classic and chestnut. Audiences can't seem to get enough of the foibles of the three Macgrath sisters. So the play gets done everywhere -- high schools, colleges and now this amiable community-theater production. If there's a certain urgency missing here, the interaction of the three troubled sisters -- Bridget A. Reilly as Babe (who has just shot her husband), Jill Peterfeso as Meg (whose Hollywood singing career is a bust) and especially Tamara Kenny (who finds poignancy in the often thankless role of Lenny, who is consumed with self-pity over her shrunken ovary) -- makes for an agreeable evening. Performed by the Kirkwood Theatre Guild through January 29 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre (in the Kirkwood Community Center), 111 S. Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $14. Call 314-821-9956, ext. 1. (Dennis Brown)

Cryin' Shame There's enough drama, melodrama, sensuality and sheer angst in this tale about life in rural South Carolina in 1985 to fill an entire season of plays. The evening abounds with idiosyncratic characters and strong performances (especially A.C. Smith, whose portrayal of a kindly numbers racketeer provides Cryin' Shamewith a moral center), but there's too much story here for one play. Somebody needs to shake playwright Javon Johnson (who also appears in one of the leading roles) and make him understand that his script would be twice as absorbing if only it were thinned down. Produced by the Saint Louis Black Repertory Company through January 30 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $25-$37.50 (student rush seats available for $10 ten minutes before curtain). Call 314-534-3810. (DB)

Defending the CavemanA sitcom-mentality stage play "experience" without the pesky problems of character relationships or plot. As a play, it's pretty good stand-up comedy -- especially for married couples who embody stereotypic gender roles. The solo character is a married guy trying to defend men from disdain. "It's not that guys are assholes," he explains. "They just come from a different culture." Creator Rob Becker romanticizes cavefolk as a model society: They respected and honored gender differences. Nobody called the cavewoman a bitch, nobody called the caveman an asshole (perhaps because language hadn't yet been invented?). Unfortunately the material doesn't really build. Cody Lyman (from Chicago's Second City) plays the Caveman. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $35-$39.50. Call 314-469-7529. (Deanna Jent)

Eleanor is none too pleased with Hank's 
extracurricular activities in The Lion in Winter 
(through February 5 in the Theatre at St. John's).
Eleanor is none too pleased with Hank's extracurricular activities in The Lion in Winter (through February 5 in the Theatre at St. John's).

Frozen Reviewed in this issue.

The Lion in Winter It's easy to see why actors love this play: It's an all-you-can-eat buffet on the Emotional Express. The audience, on the other hand, has to get by with crumbs of plot and a large serving of salty repartee that rarely sounds genuine. Set in 1183, the story features the feud between King Henry and Queen Eleanor over which of their sons will inherit the throne; think of it as a medieval version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Working hard in the meaty roles of Henry and Eleanor, Bill Stine and Donna Weinsting create the most compelling moments in the production but can't quite overcome the script's flaws. The supporting cast sometimes shines and sometimes dashes through emotional transitions as if they're in a hurry to get done, while the deadly silent blackouts between scenes kill momentum. Presented by Off Center Theatre Company through February 5 in the Theatre at St. John's, 5000 Washington Avenue (at Kingshighway). Tickets are $12-$15. Call 314-995-2679. (DJ)

Stones in His Pockets Joe Hickey and Timothy McCracken portray two ambitious extras living the life of O'Riley on a big-budget Hollywood production on location in County Kerry, Ireland. With astonishing dexterity, the two actors also enact thirteen other roles, male and female, old and young, Irish, British and American. No mere gimmick, this, for by evening's end the play makes telling observations about an Ireland whose concept of America is as illusory as a giant image on a silver screen. Marie Jones' script is both amusing and thoughtful, and the delightfully realized production could not be bettered. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through February 4 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $13-$58. (Rush tickets available 30 minutes before curtain: $8 students, $10 seniors.) Call 314-968-4925. (DB)

 
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