Hickorydickory Set in a Chicago watch-repair shop, this offbeat yarn about mortal clocks and those who would control their own destinies gently pushes the limits of the phrase "suspension of disbelief." But once that incredulity is suspended and you accept a world where nothing is quite as it seems, this family saga by Marisa Wegrzyn is wound with charming surprises. One might wish Acts Two and Three were as tight as Act One; nevertheless, director William Whitaker has worked wonders with his student cast. Especially in the wistful performance of Elizabeth Berkenmeier as a teenager who already knows the date of her death ("I'm dying every second"); a tale that might have been played for its fantastical elements is instead persuasively humane. Staged by Washington University's Performing Arts Department through October 8 at the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre in the Mallinckrodt Student Center at Washington University, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard. Tickets are $15 ($9 for students and seniors). Call 314-935-6543 or visit ascc.artsci.wustl.edu/~pad.
The Merry Garden of a Royal OakIn this tidy evening of tomfoolery, what begins as a king's seduction soon turns to courtship. We're in Restoration England, and King Charles II has a yen for Nell Gwyn, she of "orange girls" fame. "I am deeply in love with a fantasy," the king concedes. But Nell (Maria Straub) is all too real, and more than a match for the spoiled royal (Derek Simmons). Author Damien Samways brings a playful touch to his text (it's a rare farce in which you hear jokes about Seneca). There are more characters here than the story needs, but there's no denying that the play revels in its difference. Performed by Tin Ceiling through October 8 at the Tin Ceiling, 3159 Cherokee Street. Tickets are $8. Call 314-910-7321 or visit www .tinceiling.org.
ShowtuneNearly 40 songs celebrate the 40-year career of Broadway composer Jerry Herman. There's nothing elaborate here, nothing overly ambitious. But as tunes from Mame, Hello, Dolly! and a half-dozen other shows are energetically performed by a genial ensemble of six singers and one pianist, we're given the pleasant opportunity of listening to a lifetime. First performed off-Broadway three years ago, the revue is almost all music. Some of the song combinations are a little more self-conscious than others, but overall the evening is, as Herman himself wrote, "a tonic for making merry." And you can't beat the price. Performed through October 7 by St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley at the Terry M. Fischer Theatre, 3400 Pershall Road, Ferguson. Admission is free. Call 314-513-4488 or visit www.stlcc.edu/fv/theatre.
The Triangle Factory Fire ProjectA horrific fire that killed more than a hundred factory workers. A sensational court battle to assign blame. Surely there's a good drama in this real-life story, but Christopher Piehler and Scott Alan Evans haven't written it. The hard-working cast of Saint Louis University students, under the direction of Tom Martin, attempt to keep things moving, but quick transitions and energetic line deliveries can't overcome the script's deficiencies. Except for a few scenes in court, the play is made up of headlines and descriptions delivered by myriad characters who are never fleshed out. The excellent set, lighting and costume designs (created by Mark Wilson, Scott Schoonover and Lou Bird), along with fine live music, provide respite from the hammering text but can't rescue this production. Through October 7 in Xavier Hall, 3733 West Pine Mall (on the SLU campus). For tickets and other info, call 314-977-3327 or visit www .slu.edu/theatre.