St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene

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.
— Paul Friswold

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 plot lines 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)

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris Reviewed in this issue.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore Set on one of the remote Aran Islands off of Ireland's west coast, Martin McDonagh's macabre comedy concerns Padraic (David Whalen, in an impressively calibrated performance), a psychopathic terrorist so uncontrollable that he must be eliminated. The best way to get to Padraic is by killing his cat. If these doings sound like grim stuff, you'd be way wrong. True, in this allegory about the violence that has consumed Ireland, we are pummeled by the unexpected. But in an evening of giddy theatricality, ultimately we are not so much shocked by the excessive goings-on as we are startled by the realization of how hilarious it all is. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more exhilarating romp than this dazzlingly executed exercise in mayhem. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Off-Ramp through October 12 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $16 to $50. Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.
— Dennis Brown

 
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