Who's Counting

One night in St. Louis theater.

Last Saturday night Munygoers saw The Pajama Game by the light of a full moon. At Act Inc.'s Enchanted April a misfiring fog machine made the morning haze over an Italian villa seem even more enchanted than the lighting designer had intended. Early on in the Orange Girls' An American Daughter, in a scene reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn's formal gala in Roman Holiday, an actress lost her shoe under a sofa, and it could not be retrieved until intermission.

These are some of the snapshots that help to provide a view of the St. Louis theater scene, as seen through the prism of a single night — last Saturday night, July 28 — an evening that offered theatergoers a choice of nine shows. Those options extended from a professional touring extravaganza (The Lion King at the Fox) to an escapist mystery (Agatha Christie's The Hollow at the Clayton Community Theatre). For those seeking substance, St. Louis Shakespeare staged Othello. Did you prefer something more au courant? Say You Love Satan at HotCity is only two years old. If cost was a factor, tickets ranged from a top of $75 (Lion King) to a low of $9 (Pajama Game) in the upper terrace at the Muny.

More figures: One hundred sixty-six local actors and musicians were actively engaged in putting on these plays. That total excludes the touring Lion King ensemble, nor does it include all the hard-working stage managers and technicians who ran lighting and sound boards. It excludes the dressers and seamstresses at the larger theaters, and the box-office managers and ushers. It excludes those who manned the concession counters. It takes a lot of devoted people to make nine shows happen, especially when those nine shows are attended — as they were Saturday night — by a collective audience that numbered approximately 10,688.

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Let's scan that unique yet not untypical Saturday night and try to get a sense of the variety that is theater in St. Louis.

7:35 p.m. The evening officially kicks off at West Port Plaza as the hooded six-member ensemble of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change takes to the stage to begin an evening of rambunctious music and sketch comedy for hopeful heterosexuals.

8:05 p.m. In a theatrical approximation of the Oklahoma land rush, we're off and running. In Kirkwood, Stages St. Louis' The Full Monty sneaks a one-minute jump by beginning Jack Lane's taped pre-show announcement at 8:04. But Enchanted April, The Hollow, The Lion King and Othello all begin at 8:05. An American Daughter and Say You Love Satan both have pre-show announcements (one live, one taped). By the time the lights come up on those two plays at 8:07, The Lion King's animal parade is already drawing to a close, and in one of the evening's most magical moments, the great elephant is lumbering from the aisle up onto the Fox Theatre stage.

8:15 p.m. In Forest Park the evening's final show, The Pajama Game, is about to begin. As the Muny audience stands to sing the national anthem, in Say You Love Satan Andrew (Ben Nordstrom) and Jack (Tyler Vickers) are doing drugs in the men's room at a gay bar. Even as Andrew is feeling the pleasures of his unexpected erection, Othello (Alfonso Freeman) admonishes the Venetians to "Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them."

Meanwhile, in An American Daughter, Monica Parks, who portrays a close friend of Dr. Lyssa Hughes (Mary Schnitzler), who has just been nominated by the president as surgeon general, kicks off her shoes to stretch out on the sofa. But at scene's end, only one shoe can be found. (The other has wedged itself under the couch.)

8:30 p.m. Late in Act One of I Love You... , Alan Knoll is midway through a hilarious spoof of Scared Straight! in which he plays a convict who intimidates two strangers into wedlock: "You're all waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right, ain't you? Well, I have got news for you. They ain't comin!!!" At An American Daughter the technicians in the light booth are scanning the stage for Parks' missing shoe.

8:35 p.m. Babe Williams (Kate Baldwin) protests "I'm Not At All in Love" in The Pajama Game. The caddish Dr. John Cristow (Andy Akester) steals an illicit kiss from a married woman in The Hollow. Intermission (the evening's first) begins at I Love You...

...and at An American Daughter, the missing shoe is spotted.

But how to retrieve it?

8:50 p.m. Sid Sorokin (Will Chase) begins to sing The Pajama Game's classic ballad "Hey There," intermission begins at both Enchanted April and Say You Love Satan, and Act Two begins at I Love You... Backstage at An American Daughter, the props person, Maria Straub, removes her own black shoes and hands them to Monica Parks so that she does not have to enter the next scene barefoot.

8:59 p.m. "He who steals my purse steals trash," Iago implores Othello. "But he that filches from me my good name...." By the time Myron Freedman finishes that speech at the Grandel, out at COCA in An American Daughter the news breaks that Dr. Lyssa Hughes once ducked out of jury duty. Thus begins the wholesale destruction of Hughes' good name.

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