The Long Christmas Ride HomeThe words take center stage in this mostly readers' theater staging of Paula Vogel's time-skipping memory play that revolves around an unhappy Christmas many years ago. The operative question becomes: Are words alone enough to sustain a play in which puppets and Japanese theater techniques are integral to telling its story? Despite some charged performances in this professional reading from Soundstage Productions, especially by G.P. Hunsaker as Father and Jeremiah Joseph Martin as his gay son, the evening is suffused with a curious irony: although readers' theater usually succeeds by giving us less, this staging leaves us wanting more. Performed by Soundstage Productions through February 18 at HH Studio, 2500 Sutton Avenue, Maplewood. Tickets are $12. Call 314-968-8070 or visit www.soundstageproductions.net.
Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott With quiet dignity and keen intensity, a bright young cast of eight actors, led by a dynamic Maurio Murray as Martin Luther King Jr., tells the compelling story of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott that began on that fateful December evening when Rosa Parks, a tailor's assistant at an Alabama department store, refused to give up her seat on a crowded bus. The compact script by Sue Greenberg is a marvel of distillation; Ron Himes' choreographed direction is focused and sharp. The 45-minute program is a terrific example of how much you can do with little. Performed by the Black Rep's Touring Company at 2 and 4 p.m. on February 18 and 19 at the Des Lee Auditorium in the Missouri History Museum, Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue. Tickets are $5 ($3 for MHS members). Call 314-361-9017 or visit www.mohistory.org.
Simpatico "Hollywood no longer makes crime thrillers like Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon," grouses one of this play's seedy characters, so Sam Shepard took it on himself to fill the void. This fun paean to film noir is laced with extortion, blackmail and treachery. Fifteen years after having committed a racetrack crime, Carter and Vinnie are still as bound to each other as Mutt and Jeff. Neatly garbed in tie and suspenders, Dave Steckel's Carter is a smooth, buttoned-up package; Jerry Russo's Vinnie is a Sad Sack in a dirty undershirt and baggy jeans. But which one is in charge here? And for how long? The plot continues to build suspense and intrigue right up until the final scene, at which point the story lapses into Shepard-esque confusion. Along with the in-tune leads, Alice Kinsella brings a breezy nonchalance to the former temptress whose favors every man in the play may have enjoyed. As the mysterious victim of these thugs, Myron Freedman instills Simpatico with a bizarre zest. If you could blend the wryness of Martin Short and the menacing authority of George C. Scott in a cement mixer, this might be the gravel-voiced result. Performed by Muddy Waters Theatre Company through February 19 at St. John's United Methodist Church, 5000 Washington Place (at Kingshighway). Tickets are $16 ($13 for students and seniors). Call 314-540-7831 or visit www.muddywaterstheatre.com.