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 setup, 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 brother's 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

Defending the Caveman More a stand-up comedy act than a play (note the lack of a credited director), Rob Becker's Defending the Caveman franchise feels like a conglomeration of every "men are like this, but women are like that" joke told by every observational comic of the past decade and a half. Isaac Lamb delivers the jokes well, no doubt, and he has a naughty, regular-guy mien that keeps him from appearing to be "an asshole" (that's the sum total of the plot, incidentally: Are men assholes? Lamb discusses.), even when saying things that make the women in the audience tetchy. Judging by the audience reactions, if you've notched a decade of marriage or more and you find the "men don't like to talk to each other, but women love to sit and talk" joke to be an eternal wellspring of humor, you'll love it. Through October 12 at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $29 to $43.50. Visit www.playhouseatwestport.com or call 314-469-7529. (PF)

Deus ex Machina: Hercules' 13th Labor Clayton Smith and Tom Long's send-up of the Hercules myth starts off well but suffers from a bad case of kitchen sinkism in the second act. There are too many scenes, too many digressions, too many secondary plotlines popping up, all of it accumulating too slowly and snuffing out too effectively the zany energy of the first act. The low-budget-epic aesthetic of cardboard lightning bolts and bath-towel togas suffers when you have too much time to scrutinize it; better if director Derek Simmons had kept things speeding along, as in the first act. But Hercules has its moments of hammy fun, especially in the scenes between the Olympia-swilling-south-city-dad version of Zeus (Michael Moncey) and his emotionally needy and dimwitted son, Hercules (John Foughty). Presented by the Tin Ceiling Theatre through October 12 at the Tin Ceiling, 3159 Cherokee Street. Tickets are $10. Call 314-341-0326 or visit www.tinceiling.org. (PF)

Hair Hair is not so much a musical with a defined plot and clearly motivated characters as it is an invocation, a sort of vision quest designed to shake you out of your torpor and make you think. This truly ensemble show features some standout individual performances, such as Zachary Allen Farmer's side-splitting rendition of "My Conviction" while in drag as the tourist lady. But under Scott Miller's direction, this Hair is 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

The Lieutenant of Inishmore Reviewed in this issue.

The Music Man There were quite a few kids in the sold-out audience, most of them old enough to vote — Meredith Willson's Music Man has that power to charm the years right off you, especially when it's wrapped up in cotton-candy color (Dorothy Marshall Englis' costuming is gloriously bright and fun) and delivered with such contagious exuberance. Graham Rowat plays flimflamming salesman Harold Hill with a cunning edge; watch his eyes shift to his mark when he's about to gull someone, then the knowing smile when he pulls it off. Edward Juvier gives Hill's old crony Marcellus a Zero Mostel-like glee, and delivers a hysterical "Shipoopi" as well. The only flaw is the use of synthesized horns — this is a musical that cries out for real brass and suffers without them. But Spencer Milford's charming and funny Winthrop and Abigail Isom's enchanting Amaryllis almost balance it out with sweetness and purity. These are real children giving grown-up performances — you can't take your eyes off 'em. Presented by Stages St. Louis through October 5 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $46 ($24 for children, $43 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-824-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.com. (PF)

 
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