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

Parenting 101: A Musical Guide to Raising Parents This extended revue about the trials and tribulations of having children is yet another entry in the "you too can write a musical" sweepstakes. The sketches, whose subjects range from childbirth to the loss of a pet to shopping in toy stores, strive for jokes; the songs are full of puns. Some people enjoy this kind of in-your-face entertainment. But by the end of Act One, the only reason I could think of to return for Act Two was to see if the four energetic actors — who played the first act at the top of their lungs — would have any voices left by evening's end. It wasn't reason enough. Performed through March 16 at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue at I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $42.50. Call 314-469-7529 or visit www.theplayhouseatwestport.com. (DB)

The Polish Egg Man Reviewed in this issue.

The Road to Mecca Reviewed in this issue.

Twelve Angry Men Reviewed in this issue.

Two-Headed Julie Jensen's drama about two Mormon women on the Utah frontier in 1857 spans 40 years in a hit-and-miss series of vignettes. Hettie (Edie Avioli) is stolid and accepting, blessed with common sense and the ability to toe the Mormon line. Her friend Lavinia (Amy Loui) is proud and obstreperous, forced to live by society's rules yet unwilling to accept them. The differences between the women drive the play's finest moments. Hettie's willingness to overlook the mercy killing of mutual friend Jane for the good of the community is played with matter-of-fact aplomb by Avioli, even as Loui imbues Lavinia with a righteous indignation that slowly reveals itself to be a monomaniacal commitment to her belief in herself as the final arbiter of all that is moral and just. All the good work is undone when the two spin in slow motion under a wash of red lights while a jarring keyboard riff plays. (Director Kimberley Hughes maintains this habit throughout the production.) Dunsi Dai's set — a vast mountains-and-sky panorama fronted by an iron-barred root cellar and a section of real tree sturdy enough for the two women to perch in — is enhanced by Rusty Conklin's haunting redesign of the lobby. Through February 24 at the Black Cat Theatre, 2810 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood. Tickets are $25 ($15 for students, $20 for seniors). Call 314-963-8800 or visit www.blackcattheatre.org. — Paul Friswold

 
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