Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

FilumenaDespite some droll supporting work by Peter Mayer and Dorothy Davis -- not to mention a pile-driver of a performance by the uproarious Ted Gregory -- Eduardo de Filippo's Italian comedy-drama about the efforts of a Neapolitan ex-prostitute to secure the love of her long-time lover never delivers the theatrical eruption the play demands. The material is all over the place -- romantic comedy, melodrama, farce, mystery -- but the production is only really comfortable playing for laughs, with the result that a story that should take us on a journey instead is merely entertaining. Nor does it help that Filumena, who should be a fiery, tempestuous heroine, is instead the most elusive character onstage. Performed by HotCity Theatre through July 30 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $18 to $23. Call 314-482-9125. (Dennis Brown)

The Madwoman of Chaillot What a treat to see the myopic Countess Aurelia again presiding over her small corner of Paris, engaged in a death struggle with the seemingly unstoppable forces of greed and power. In recent years this parable about those who would dominate the world vs. those who would keep it free has fallen from favor. To renew her acquaintance is to be reminded that The Madwoman is one of the delights of world drama. Jean Giraudoux's 1944 allegory has been lovingly staged with atmospheric lighting, antic costumes and a large, appealing cast. In the title role, Donna Weinsting -- who is turned out like a lavender Christmas tree -- plays against the role's obvious eccentricities, thus bringing credibility to an incredible role. Her graceful high-wire act helps to transform the evening into a veritable night at the circus. Performed by Stray Dog Theatre through August 7 at the A. E. Hotchner Studio Theatre in the Mallinckrodt Student Center at Washington University, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard. Call 314-531-5923. (DB)

Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad A darkly comic nod to absurd theatre and existential philosophy, Arthur Kopit's play riffs on the theme of females devouring their young or their lovers. As Madame Rosepettle, the "Mommy Dearest" par excellence, Juli Duncan is convincingly evil. Sadly, she and her stuttering, stunted son Jonathan (Sam Bakken) are both saddled with excessively long speeches that stop the action. When plot-driven, the play serves up some nice surprises, particularly the unexpected entrance of the father noted in the title. While the absurdity of the characters evokes laughter, the production was best summed up by the audience member who remarked, "I think this is more sad than funny." Kopit would agree -- as Rosepettle says, "Life is never funny -- it's grim." Presented by Clayton Community Theatre through July 31 at Clayton High School's Little Theatre, 1 Mark Twain Circle, Clayton. Tickets are $12 and $15. Call 314-854-6646. (Deanna Jent)

 
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