St. Louis Stage Capsules

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

The Bomb-itty of Errors The Bomb-itty of Errors is neither a cultural statement on the importance of rap nor a sociological effort to make hip-hop acceptable to the Shakespeare crowd, or vice versa. Bomb-itty is gravitas-free, concerned only with being entertaining – and oh, how it succeeds. Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors double-twin sets – Antipholus and Dromio squared – stumble through a series of mistaken identities as they attempt to achieve fame as rappers. Whip-smart in its execution, rife with in-jokes for hip-hop heads and Shakespearean scholars and ruthless in its conflation of both sources, it's a 90-minute party for fans of inventive and original musical comedy. Presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through December 9 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $18 to $45 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org. – Paul Friswold

A Christmas Carol Ebenezer is back! Charles Dickens' original text takes front and center in this adaptation of one of the world's most popular ghost stories. The cast of dozens includes twelve narrators who stick fairly closely to the original prose. This collage of voices not only renders the already familiar plot but also gives us a liberal dose of the novella. Dickens' words are augmented by a steady stream of smoke and masks and clinking chains and ghosts popping out of beds. It's all been staged with a flourish by Ted Gregory. Jason Puff is a persuasively odious Scrooge. Among the featured players, Sarah Quaranta is a refreshingly quirky Ghost of Christmas Past. Performed by Lindenwood University's theater department through December 8 at the Jelkyl Theatre, Roemer Hall, 209 South Kingshighway, St. Charles. Tickets are $10 (free for LU students, $8 for seniors, $6 for children). Call 636-949-4878 or visit www.lindenwood.edu. – Dennis Brown

Kindertransport Reviewed in this issue.

Kiss Me, Kate Reviewed in this issue.

A Length of Rope The dingy office set suggests we're entering the seedy world of The Maltese Falcon. Sure enough, there are references to that John Huston film early on. But Robert Strasser's mystery that's not a mystery about what happened to a missing painting (it got tossed into the Mississippi River, maybe) is more Mickey Spillane than Dashiell Hammett – with a liberal dose of David Mamet for spice. Some of the smutty dialogue reflects the wide-eyed wonder of a little boy talking about taboo topics for the first time. While there doesn't seem to be any real reason for this riff on sexual intrigue other than titillation and diversion, the five-person cast, directed by Andrew Byrd and smoothly led by Irene Allen, is in sync with the play's breezy manner. Performed by Tin Ceiling through December 16 at the Tin Ceiling, 3159 Cherokee Street. Tickets are $8. Call 314-374-1511 or visit www.tinceiling.org. (DB)

Sister's Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi's Gold Let us be merry: The prodigal nun has returned. Sister, that sweet authoritarian with whom St. Louis fell in love in Late Nite Catechism, is back with a holiday party. In the title role, Nonie Newton-Breen is a wonderfully effective comedienne who treads the delicate balance between affection and insult so deftly that she succeeds in making religion seem inclusive rather than exclusive. If the sheer act of indulging in happiness is enough to satisfy, then let the word go out that happy days are here again. Through December 30 at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue at I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $41. Call 314-469-7529 or visit www.theplayhouseatwestport.com. (DB)

The Spitfire Grill James Valcq (music and book) and Fred Alley (lyrics and book) open their story with two long, similar songs. There's a strangely late attempt to add nuance to a minor character, and the dark secret of the protagonist is too abruptly revealed. But director Neal Richardson compensates for flawed material with a sterling cast that sings marvelously. As Percy, the young ex-con who attempts to start a new life as a waitress at the titular grill in bucolic Gilead, Wisconsin, Shayla Lynn Spradley maintains a surly façade that finally shatters to reveal an incandescent soul. "Shine," her "duet" with a silent Robert Moore (the mysterious Visitor) in the second act, is cathartic and uplifting. Anna Paniccia portrays the elderly Hannah convincingly, and her rich rendition of "Forgotten Lullaby" is bitter and loving at once. High marks also to Steven C. Pierce, who brings a hesitant charm to the role of Sheriff Joe. Through December 9 at Stage III (in Webster Hall, 470 East Lockwood Avenue). Tickets are $5 to $10; call 314-968-7128 for information. (PF)

 
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