St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene.

An American Daughter This decade-old talkathon by Wendy Wasserstein plays out in the Georgetown home of a dedicated physician (Mary Schnitzler) who has been nominated as surgeon general. Even before the confirmation process can begin, the discovery of a minor indiscretion in her past leads to a media feeding frenzy in which the candidate's very self-respect is put to the test. Those who deem Wasserstein to be an original voice will surely welcome this rare opportunity to see this infrequently staged melodrama. On the other hand, those who find her scripts to be vapid and lacking in even a rudimentary understanding of craft might be put off by the lifeless nature of these self-absorbed, unappealing characters. But at least we can heave a sigh of relief that the season-long "Wendy City" marathon is finally wending down. Produced by Orange Girls through July 29 at COCA, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City. Tickets are $20 ($18 for students and seniors). Call 314-520-9557 or visit www. orangegirls.org.

Dennis Brown

A Clash of Swords A Clash of Swords is the rather arbitrary umbrella title for two quite different one-act plays. The irreverent opener, "Dragon's Lair" by Chris Cyr, is Spamalot for paupers. It's a medieval Police Academy that reveals two knights of the round table (Chris Wilson, Chris Make) as frat brats. Some of their dealings with the guileless Aloicious (the endearing Joey Walsh), who desires to become a knight, are downright uproarious. When the play's goal is to joust with our funny bones, it succeeds happily. Damien Samways' pirate tale "Blackbird White" has loftier ambitions. This spoof of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead takes too long to reveal its surprise — and even then you might wonder if the punch is worth the verbose buildup. Both plays are way too long, and neither one-act knows how to end. But they do succeed in providing an original evening of raffish diversion. Performed by the Tin Ceiling through July 22 at the Tin Ceiling, 3159 Cherokee Street. Tickets are $8. Call 314-664-1161 or visit www.tinceiling.org.

(DB)

Enchanted April Reviewed in this issue.

The Hollow There's been a murder (!). The deceased is the handsome and cocky Dr. John Cristow (Andy Asker), who dragged his dimwitted wife Gerda (Karen Wood) to the country manor of the blandly patrician Angkatell clan, headed by the sedate Sir Henry (Matthew Lindquist) and dotty Lucy (Maryann Pass), for a weekend getaway. Asker is convincing as the caddish Cristow, exasperated by the neurotic dullness of his wife and greatly taken with his own overbearing charms. As Gerda, Wood is a twitching bundle of uncertainty and stammered half-thoughts. Is it any wonder the good doctor was carrying on with flinty sculptress Henrietta, played solidly by Carla Brown? As with most Christie plays, the characters are cardboard cutouts; they stand here, they talk here. Everyone has a motivation for the murder, but honestly, the lot of them have no reason to mourn Cristow — it's made painfully clear through the slow first act that everyone loathes him — so why they bother to solve the mystery is the biggest mystery of all. Still, the second act does allow Maryann Pass' Lucy several opportunities to breeze into the room and trip off a few daffy lines with great charm. Without her, it would be a very dull time indeed. Performed by the Clayton Community Theatre through July 29 at the Concordia Seminary theater, 6501 Clayton Road, Clayton. Tickets are $15 ($12 for students and seniors). Call 314-721-9228 or visit www.placeseveryone.org.

Paul Friswold

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change An intrepid group of local producers is trying to make a long-run go of this sketch-y evening that chronicles, spoofs and sometimes even satirizes mating rituals from the first date to the final farewell. They just might pull it off, because -- as staged with verve by St. Louis theater veteran Bobby Miller -- this musical revue is rambunctious, breezy and just ribald enough to keep viewers chortling from beginning to end. An ideally suited ensemble (Michael Jokerst, Alan Knoll, Chopper Leifheit, Lee Anne Mathews, Laurie McConnell, Rosemary Watts) cavorts through a fast-paced evening of mostly humorous skits that allow everyone a chance to shine. Sitting through the show is like chewing a wad of bubble gum: after a few hours it begins to lose its flavor. But the sheer act of watching so many people have so much fun -- both onstage and in the audience -- bespeaks success. 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 $41 to $46. Call 314-469-7529.

(DB)

The Lion King This Disney juggernaut retains its profusion of color and movement. Dance, mime, puppetry and masks — all performed by a cast of 49 actors — fuse together to bring to life a riff on Hamlet (nasty uncle kills noble king; confused son must hear from Daddy's ghost before seeking revenge) removed to the African savanna. The show provides a dazzling immersion into the potentials of creative imagination. First-time partakers are in for a splendid treat, though repeat viewers might begin to see through the evening's incandescent shallowness. Performed through July 29 at the Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $28 to $75. Call 314-534-1111 or visit www.fabulousfox.com.

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