St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene

Assassins Stephen Sondheim's most audacious musical (written in collaboration with John Weidham) is also one of his least-seen. The show takes direct aim at our national obsession with guns. Set in a carnival shooting gallery, we are treated to a series of vignettes about nine shadowy iconoclasts who have sought to snuff out the life of America's most public bureaucrat. This New Line Theatre production lacks the intensity and passion to sustain interest in this original, even bizarre, material. But if you're looking to add another notch to your Sondheim gun belt, here is an infrequent opportunity to see a cynical, unsettling entertainment by the defining theater composer of our generation. Through March 29 at the Ivory Theatre, 7622 Michigan Avenue. Tickets are $15 to $18 ($10 to $15 for children, students and seniors; $8 rush seats available for students five minutes before showtime). Call 314-773-6526 or visit www.newlinetheatre.com. — Dennis Brown

Bluish Reviewed in this issue.

Death and the King's Horseman Reviewed in this issue.

Ella Reviewed in this issue.

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. Open-ended run 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)

Rabbit Hole To encounter this delicate drama about a family fractured by the death of their son in the intimacy of the Rep Studio is a gorgeous experience, akin to listening to a nuanced string quartet. Although playwright David Lindsay-Abaire has refined and polished his dialogue until it shines, it's not what the characters say here that grips us; the poignancy comes in what they're incapable of saying. Perhaps in lesser hands this story could result in soapsuds. But this staging is a marvel of finely honed details, which are realized by a harmonious ensemble of five compassionate actors. Rabbit Hole is the recipient of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for best play. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through March 30 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). (DB)

 
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