St. Louis Stage Capsules

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

Boesman and Lena Reviewed in this issue.

Crazy for You For much of Act One, this lavish paean to the songs of George and Ira Gershwin is a glory to behold. It glides, swirls, tap dances and pick-axes its way from standard to standard, climaxing with the exuberant "I've Got Rhythm." The lithe dancers do wonderful work. David Elder makes for a charming leading man, and Julie Tolivar's rambunctious leading lady is equally appealing. Then Act Two arrives. It's a slow starter in every Crazy for You. But in this Stages St. Louis production, it never starts at all. How can one act be so pleasantly polished; the next, an endurance contest? Perhaps it has to do with the lack of attention that's been paid to the book scenes, especially in the first half-hour. Whatever the reason, by the time the umpteenth Gershwin song receives its umpteenth reprise nearly three hours after the evening began, you might find yourself wishing (albeit briefly) that George and Ira had never laid eyes on a piano. If only they'd taken their Uncle Leo's advice and opened a kosher deli. Produced by Stages St. Louis through October 7 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $46 ($43 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-821-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.org. — Dennis Brown

Fat PigTough, blunt, funny and squirm-inducing, Neil LaBute's Fat Pig is the provocative comedy network sitcoms pretend to be but never are. Helen (Lian Kopchak), a plus-size woman in a size-5 world, lands a date with health-conscious Tom (David Finn) thanks to her humor, charm and love of war movies. The burgeoning relationship is plagued by "what other people will think" — and lest there be any doubts, Tom's friend Carter (Nick Cutelli) delivers the public's opinion in graphic, hilarious terms. Director Martin Stanberry gets the most out of a talented HotCity Theatre cast, especially Kopchak, who's easy to love. It's no sitcom ending, however, and the kick to the gut lingers long afterward. Through September 22 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-289-4063 or visit www.hotcitytheatre.org. — Paul Friswold

The History Boys Alan Bennett's wildly popular, critically acclaimed, award-winning story about eight British students who must prepare for college entrance exams makes its eagerly awaited local stage debut. It's a charming piece indeed, one that reminds us of how much we've missed if our schooling did not include free-thinking professors who fiddled with our genitals. Are we really supposed to relate to students who ask their teachers for blowjobs? Apparently so, because the play is a smash hit wherever it's done, and is sure to be one here, too. Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through September 30 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $14 to $63 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org. (DB)

Miss Evers' Boys "You've got to trust somebody," dedicated nurse Eunice Evers (Stephanie Boykin) tells the young Alabama farmers entrusted to her care. Little do they — or she, at first — realize that these black men are being exploited in the infamous 1930s Tuskegee syphilis studies. David Feldshuh's tale of betrayal is a rarity. This fictionalized account of an egregious wrong deals with issues social, ethical and moral — and it does so with almost no didacticism. It's also unusual for such a sobering play to be so infused with music and rhythm. You might not understand every word that comes across the footlights, but the painful arc of the story is unmistakably clear. Performed through September 22 by the St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley at the Terry M. Fischer Theatre, 3400 Pershall Road, Ferguson. Tickets are free. Call 314-513-4488 or visit www.stlcc.edu/fv/theatre. (DB)

Suddenly Last Summer Fear and loathing stalk the stage in this war of words composed by America's premier lyric dramatist, Tennessee Williams, who aptly described this as his most poetic play. In 1936 New Orleans, a tyrannical mother fights to protect the reputation of her dead son, who may (or may not) have been cannibalized during a recent vacation. At least that's what his cousin Catharine is saying. Best then to lobotomize Catharine and put the story (and its storyteller) to rest. Nancy Lewis makes for a mesmerizing mother; Julie Layton is a fraying nerve end of a victim. Together they reveal the many layers of Williams' nightmarish world in an evening that is as spellbinding as it is harrowing. Performed by Stray Dog Theatre through September 22 at the Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue. Tickets are $18 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-865-1995 or visit www.straydogtheatre.org. (DB)

Hedda Gabler Reviewed in this issue.

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 Westport Plaza, 635 Westport Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $41 to $46. Call 314-469-7529. (DB)

 
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