Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown, Paul Friswold and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Romeo and JulietClayton Community Theatre sets itself an admirable challenge with a blended cast — teenagers and adults — taking on Shakespeare's great tragic romance, Romeo and Juliet. For the most part, they meet the challenge well. "Wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast," Friar Laurence (Mark Abels) warns his young charge, Romeo, in matters of romance; it's also true for the delivery of Shakespearean dialogue. At times Romeo (Jacob Blumenfeld) and Juliet (Hannah Kiem) deliver their lines at a rapid clip and with little inflection, muting the language into a featureless blur. But this superabundance of energy serves the story well in other places; the fight scenes are exuberant and bracing, rumbling across the stage with much noise and flashing blades, and in his death duel with Tybalt (Andrew Gude), Blumenfeld has the language at his service. Gude's Tybalt bristles with surly menace, as befits a hotheaded teen; Jonathan Huelman's Mercutio is a lovable rogue, equal parts smart-ass and shortsighted youth. Through March 4 at the Concordia Seminary Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road, Clayton. Tickets are $15 ($12 for students and seniors). Call 314-721-9228 or visit www.placeseveryone.org.
Paul Friswold

Some Americans AbroadRichard Nelson's acid account of ugly American intellectuals on a university-sponsored theater gorge through England is an intriguing if nasty piece. Not that Nelson is too hard on the academic phonies he's harpooning; he's just so relentless. Jim Sala's direction only scratches the surface of this satire, which makes a play that needs to live in its nuances merely one-note. Joe Wegescheide conveys the insufferable department head's cowardice without letting us see how he got this job to begin with. But the set design by Ryan Tiffany is ingenious: Photos convey the locales, while books hang from the ceiling throughout the auditorium like fish hooks, suggesting perhaps that learning is everywhere to those who are willing to bite. Produced by St. Louis Community College-Forest Park through March 4 at the Mildred E. Bastian Center for the Performing Arts, 5600 Oakland Avenue. Tickets are $4 ($2 for students and seniors). Call 314-644-9388.
(DB)

Standing on My KneesCatherine (Meghan Maguire) is a poet hoping to rid herself of schizophrenia, but not at the cost of her creativity. Interesting premise, but what begins as an absorbing character study soon becomes a conventional romance between the free-spirited Catherine and a straitlaced investment counselor (Nicolas Pavros). Anyone remember Two for the Seesaw? It might help if you don't. Audiences seem to like John Olive's well-intentioned play, but don't peer too closely. Produced by Orange Girls through March 4 at the COCA Black Box, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City. Tickets are $20 ($18 for students and seniors). Call 314-520-9557 or visit www.orangegirls.org.
(DB)

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