St. Louis Stage Capsules

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

Angels in America Part 1: Millennium Approaches To dismiss this Tony Kushner work as "that play about AIDS where no one dies of AIDS in the whole three hours" is a touch crass — but that's how it felt when Millennium finally finished approaching and mercifully cracked the stage, the building and all of time wide open. It's a lot of play, and for the most part director Steve Woolf and his young cast admirably wrestle it into submission. As Prior Walter, the abandoned gay man dying from AIDS, Michael Baxter delivers a valiant performance. Charles Sydney Hirsh imbues Louis (Prior's lover) with a feckless intellectualism, vainly rationalizing disease and fidelity. And then there's Roy Cohn, played with towering braggadocio by Tyler Adcock: Boyish, boisterous, vain and positively reptilian in manner, he's a beguiling combination of alpha predator and Milton Berle. Much like Angels itself, he'll wear you out and leave you wanting just one more act. Presented by the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts through March 2 in the Emerson Studio in the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $10 ($5 for students and seniors). Call 314-968-7128 or visit www.webster.edu. — Paul Friswold

A Colored Funeral As the evening begins, the set is bare except for a casket that reposes upstage. As the Afro-American mourners begin to file in, the viewer is told, "This is your funeral, a colored funeral." What's the goal here? Initially, "a simple recognition of the fact" that the finality of death supersedes race, creed and ethnicity. In an edgy variation on Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, where characters speak to us from the graveyard, here they're mostly still in the funeral parlor, speaking from the casket. A cast of seven (who enact multiple roles) inform us about the many ways of death — violent, accidental, natural, suicidal. Gregory S. Carr, who wrote and directed the piece, cuts a wide swath, and almost all the sketches intrigue. But why, in such a cozy theater, are some actors miced? Produced by St. Louis Community College-Forest Park through March 2 at the Mildred E. Bastian Center for the Performing Arts, 5600 Oakland Avenue. Tickets are $4 ($2 for students and seniors; free with SLCC ID). Call 314-644-9386. — 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)

Radio Golf Reviewed in this issue.

The Scene Reviewed in this issue.

She Stoops to Conquer From the clever "turn off your cell phone" speech in 18th-century rhymed couplets straight through to the unnecessary yet festive dance at evening's end, this student production of Oliver Goldsmith's comedy about — what else? — young love and mistaken identity is a delight, reminding us yet again that much of the area's most spirited theater is to be found on college campuses. Director Jeffery Matthews mines veins of both humor and humanity. Act One is consistently amusing, but Act Two is on a constant roll. Great fun. Performed by Washington University's Performing Arts Department through March 2 at Washington University's A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard (in the Mallinckrodt Student Center), University City. Tickets are $15 ($9 for students and seniors). Call 314-935-6543 or visit ascc.artsci.wustl.edu/~pad/. (DB)

Twelve Angry Men How much you enjoy this stage adaptation of the 1957 movie about contentious jury deliberations over the fate of a minority youth charged with his father's murder might depend on how wedded you are to the perennially popular film that starred Henry Fonda and a definitive cast. Time and again the stage version has trouble compensating for the close-ups and reaction shots that are so integral to telling the story on screen. But those who have never seen the film might become engaged by the melodrama of the compelling story. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through March 2 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)

Vieux Carre Set in the French Quarter in the mid-1930s, this semi-autobiographical piece is both one of Tennessee Williams' earliest and latest scripts. He began the play while living in the Quarter, writing with wide-eyed enthusiasm. But then he moved away from New Orleans and did not complete the script for nearly 40 years, by which time he was writing through a miasma of pills and booze. This account of an innocent young writer exposed to illness and death, love and violence in a seedy boarding house introduces us to characters who'd be fleshed out in more successful works like A Streetcar Named Desire. There are the occasional flashes of eloquence — Williams always understood the value of a strong curtain line — but the piece satisfies more as an asterisk to a career than as an entity of its own. Performed by Muddy Waters Theatre Company through March 1 at the Theatre at St. John's, St. John's United Methodist Church, 5000 Washington Place (at Kingshighway). Tickets are $18 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-540-7831. (DB)

 
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