St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene

Antigone The first act of Jean Anouilh's Antigone (adapted by Lewis Galantiere) is all set-up, with much exposition about who's here (ancient Greeks in a film-noir world, right down to the 1940s-era costumes) and what their motivations are. Antigone (Emily Baker) wants to bury her brother to ensure a happy afterlife for his spirit, but her uncle and king, Creon (John Contini), won't allow it for political reasons. It's a lumpy and awkward beginning, but it passes quickly. The second act throws Antigone and Creon into the meat grinder, as the two tear savagely at each other's ideology. Baker plays Antigone with an idealism that's moving and luminous; Contini balances her headstrong individuality with his dark-edged belief in the sublimation of the individual to the needs of the state. Contini's king speaks reverently of blood and sacrifice while wearing a spotless military uniform; her arms smeared with her brothers blood, her face bruised and split by Creon's men, Antigone stands before him defiant, refusing to acquiesce. Director Milton Zoth gives us many such contradictory tableaux in this fine production. Presented by St. Louis Actors' Studio through October 5 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle Avenue. Tickets are $25 ($18 for students and seniors). Call 314-458-2978 or visit www.stlas.org. — Paul Friswold

Copenhagen Michael Frayn's Copenhagen imagines — many times over — the reason behind Werner Heisenberg's (Matt Hanify) visit to his mentor Niels Bohr (Chuck Lavazzi)'s home in occupied Copenhagen during World War II. There's much talk of physics, at times a tedious amount of physics and yet — and yet Lavazzi's mannered and careful Niels is always ready to explain it in plain language so that you get the gist of it. Hanify provides the sparks, his Heisenberg agitated by too slow a pace and yet always yearning to be in control of the situation. Set in the round, with a large circular rug representing the atom both men sought to understand, the two orbit each other for most of the show, prodding and feinting and trying to grasp what each of them wanted from this mysterious visit. It is Liz Hopefl's sweet Margrethe, Niels' wife, upon which this drama literally and figuratively turns; gracious to her unwanted guest, lovingly chiding her husband, quietly mourning her lost children, she is both heart and soul. Then, with devastating bluntness, she provides the answers and the emotions neither man can see from his own fixed orbit, as wise in the ways of the human heart as these two geniuses are in the mechanics of the atom. A strange and enchanting show that gets stronger as it goes on, and continues to do so even after the lights come up. Presented by West End Players Guild through September 28 at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union Boulevard. Tickets are $18 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org. (PF)

Hair Hair is not so much a musical as it is an invocation, a sort of vision quest designed to shake you out of your torpor and make you think. Let's describe it as "a group of people with strange clothes and a shared faith in nebulous concepts who make strange proclamations about society's ills" — are we describing hippies, the religious right, the secular left or the military's press conferences on the war in Iraq? Regardless of what you think you are, Hair challenges your perceptions. A kaleidoscopic, mandala-esque painting on the stage provides a locus for the characters to dance and sing and poke fun at the world outside the theater. And there is a lot of fun: Zachary Allen Farmer delivers a side-splitting rendition of "My Conviction" as the tourist lady, and "Walking in Space" comes with a dazzling burst of Christmas lights that causes the audience to gaze skyward and smile — more shows should entice us into looking for the stars. But there are painful moments as well. People singing "We're crazy for the red, white and blue" has an almost repugnant feel in the Patriot Act era, and the reluctant rebel/soldier Claude's (Todd Schaefer) invisibility once he dons his uniform recalls the disgraceful treatment of soldiers after Vietnam. The show's at its best when the entire tribe sings, the New Line Band is rocking and the audience forgets this is a play and not a concert — and that happens several times. Presented by New Line Theatre through October 18 at the Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road, Clayton. Tickets are $15 to $20 ($10 to $15 for students and seniors). Call 314-773-6526 or visit www.newlinetheatre.com. (PF)

Killing Women Here we go again with yet another wail about women in the workplace. It seems that it's a man's world out there, and female hit men (even the term is chauvinistic) just can't crash that glass ceiling. If your heart bleeds at the plight of a working mother who has to miss her daughter's grade-school Career Day because she had to kill someone instead, this is the black comedy for you. Marisa Wegrzyn's Killing Women makes many mistakes — but none so severe as to have opened the same weekend as The Lieutenant of Inishmore. In terms of manner and character, there are many parallels between the two scripts. None favor this one, which by contrast comes off as lethargic. Performed by HotCity Theatre through October 4 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $25 ($15 for students, $20 for seniors). Call 314-289-4063 or visit www.hotcitytheatre.org. — Dennis Brown

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