Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out local theater.

Andrea Sings Astaire See feature in this issue.

Cherry Docs Reviewed in this issue.

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

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 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)

The Vertical Hour If ideology is enough to engage you, there's an abundance of it here. David Hare's account of an American journalist who engages in a series of political conversations with her prospective British father-in-law is essentially inert, but it is strewn with ideas. Although the play posits distinctions between American and British approaches to politics (specifically, the Iraq War), it also exemplifies the stark difference in our varying views of what constitutes satisfying theater. Don't look for much action here; to British writers like Hare, discourse is action. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through February 3 at the Emerson Studio in the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $39 to $50 (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 Waiting Room The patriarch lies at death's door, and his attending family spends a long night digging up the past, worrying about the past, bickering and pulling together. As written by Samm-Art Williams, this Ron Himes-directed production feels a little too much like your typical family-based sitcom, though not quite so familiar as to breed contempt. If you can overlook the too-tidy tying up of loose ends, there are a few laughs, some of them even unexpected, mostly thanks to Eddie Webb's hard-nosed portrayal of Uncle Pat. The MacGuffin about a shocking family secret is stretched out for too long, and distracts from some rather more interesting subplots about the generational differences in black America. Presented by St. Louis Actors' Studio through February 3 at the Gaslight Theatre, 356 North Boyle Avenue. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-458-2978 or visit www.stlas.org. (PF)

 
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