St. Louis Stage Capsules

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

A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline After having performed the role nearly 3,000 times, it's no surprise that Gail Bliss enacts doomed country music star Patsy Cline to near perfection. But what does surprise is how completely satisfying the entire package is. The informative script is simplicity itself. On the day of Cline's death at age 31, a radio DJ in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia, spends the evening playing Patsy's songs. They come to life through Bliss, who is supported by a knockout six-piece country band. By the climax, when "this ol' country gal" is singing "Crazy" at Carnegie Hall, as bejeweled as Joan Collins in Dynasty, the incongruity of her soap-opera life is eloquent, if unspoken. Unspoken, because mostly Cline's story is sung through tear-stained lyrics about cheatin' hearts and lovesick blues. But an otherwise cunningly crafted evening shoots itself in the foot with the misguided "Oh, Susannah" sing-along. Crazy! Through February 16 at the Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan Avenue. Tickets are $25 to $30. Visit www.ivorytheatre.com or call 314-631-8330 — Dennis Brown

The Fourth Wall A. R. Gurney is one of America's most imaginative, yet civilized, playwrights. He doesn't shock his viewers, but his adventurous scripts constantly prod and nudge our preconceptions about theater. The Fourth Wall is unusual, even for Gurney. This tale of a housewife (Janet Robey-Schwartz) who strives to bring some spice into her life by turning her living room into a stage set has been batted around for fifteen years; perhaps the rewrites are beginning to erode the play's voice. "The key is to have fun with it," a character says of the reconfigured living room; that's the key to the entire 90-minute piece, directed by Jan Meyer. Don't take this slightly absurdist comedy too seriously. A spotty evening to be sure, but kudos to the Kirkwood Theatre Guild for staging something audacious rather than yet another production of The Curious Savage. Through January 26 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road. Tickets are $16. Call 314-821-9956, ext. 1, or visit www.ktg-onstage.org. (DB)

Go, Dog. Go! Under a wash of blue lights, a group of dogs drifts and dances with seaweed-like clumps of tinsel in their hands, swaying lithely to a dreamy little sea shanty provided by an onstage accordionist. As a sly dog slips the length of the stage dropping silvery chains of bubbles into the squealing front row, a young man a few rows deeper scoffs loudly, "This is nothing like Go, Dog. Go!" As ever, pooh-pooh the blinkered critics — the rest of us are playing underwater with dogs. Metro Theater Company has ably captured the essence of P.D. Eastman's beloved picture book — this is fun and silliness on a scale as grand as imagination. Nicholas Kryah's set is as perfect a three-dimensional representation of Eastman's world as one could make, with secrets hidden in every building and tree. Director Carol North and choreographer Suzanne Costello have created a high-energy show that builds excitement, and then releases it with an exuberant audience-participation baseball game. Tip of the alpine cap also to accordionist Rob Witmer, who plays beautifully with the cast as accompanist and as the sound effects. Presented by Metro Theatre Company through January 27 at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA), 524 Trinity Avenue, University City, then runs February 2-10 at the West County Family YMCA, 16464 Burkhardt Place, Chesterfield. Tickets are $14 ($12 for students and seniors). Visit www.metrotheatercompany.org or call 314-997-6777. — Paul Friswold

Othello The Black Rep stages Shakespeare's most passionate tragedy in voodoo New Orleans and Cuba at the time of the Spanish-American War. But establishing a locale needs to be more than playing Scott Joplin rags as pre-show music. As always happens when producers and directors do a half-baked job of conceptualizing, the actors are hung out to dry. This cast has to go to Olympian lengths to salvage the evening. In Act One Andre Sills' title character is constrained by a production that has little interest in Othello. But in Act Two Sills puts all the conceptual nonsense behind him and simply plays the text. Finally the words take hold and the agony of a man who loved not wisely, but too well, becomes absorbing theater. Through February 3 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $43 ($5 discount for students and seniors; $10 rush seats available for students 30 minutes before showtime). Visit www.theblackrep.org or call 314-534-3810. (DB)

Tuesdays with Morrie Bernie Passeltiner, a member of the acting ensemble that christened the Loretto-Hilton stage 41 years ago, returns four decades later to portray Morrie Schwartz, a sociology professor doomed to die from the ravages of Lou Gehrig's Disease. The persuasive simplicity of Passeltiner's deft work is a stirring testimony to a life in the theater lived well. But the play itself, which promises lessons in living, is about as insightful as a Hallmark card. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through January 27 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $16 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)

The Vertical Hour Reviewed in this issue.

The Waiting Room Reviewed in this issue.

 
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