St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene

The Blood Knot Two brothers, one black and one so light-skinned as to appear white, share a cramped but clean shack in apartheid-era South Africa and try to understand what it is that makes a man a man if race isn't the deciding factor. J. Samuel Davis' portrayal of the fun-loving Zach is earthy and immediate. John Pierson plays the more cerebral Morris with an ascetic caution; he plans for a better life, abstaining from any pleasure he may find now, and holding Zach back as well. Both actors bring an almost-unwatchable power to their scenes of confrontation. Athol Fugard's language is a sculptor's mallet, battering away at the strictures of identity, role and class to reveal the impossibly bright jewel of the human spirit — and then shattering it with the dull thud of reality. Presented by Upstream Theater under the direction of Philip Boehm through November 9 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $25 ($15 for students, $20 for seniors). Call 314-863-4999 or visit www.upstreamtheater.org. — Paul Friswold

The Color Purple Reviewed in this issue.

Emma There's much to admire in Paul Gordon's adaptation of Jane Austen's 1816 novel about a young girl who takes to matchmaking because she has too much time on her hands. In addition to the evening's visual splendor, Gordon has composed a melodic score that's easy on the ears. But his script succumbs to the same trap that snarls too many musical adaptations of novels: In striving to cover too much plot, the events become homogenized. Nor does it help that the actors have been directed in such an affected manner that there's hardly a breath of life in any of these characters. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through November 2 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $16 to $65 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $10 and $15 respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Visit www.repstl.org or call 314-968-4925. — Dennis Brown

Evie's Waltz Reviewed in this issue.

Of Thee I Sing Would that all presidential campaigns were as high-spirited and lighthearted as the one depicted in this Pulitzer Prize-winning musical lampoon from 1931, when Americans were suffering from the economic woes of the Great Depression and the candidate for vice president was the butt of scorn. All these decades later, the songs by the brothers Gershwin ("Love Is Sweeping the Country" "Who Cares") remain timeless. But the humor is (not surprisingly) dated. If these jokes by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind won a Pulitzer, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert can expect to receive the Nobel. Performed by the Washington University Performing Arts Department through November 2 at the Edison Theatre, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard (in the Mallinckrodt Student Center), University City. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors). Call 314-935-6543 or visit ascc.artsci.wustl.edu/~pad/. (DB)

Pippin Reviewed in this issue.

She Loves You! It's hard to explain why Elvis impersonators usually seem so tacky, yet Beatles re-creations — even when the re-enactors are a little long in the tooth — are full of joy. Perhaps it's because with the Beatles, music trumps personality. There's lots of music here, live and loud, to remind us of those vital years in the turbulent 1960s when every few months brought an astonishing new gift from John and Paul, even occasionally George. This revue attempts to take us into the studio for that celebrated first broadcast on the Ed Sullivan Show, then it wants to re-create the excitement of a performance in Shea Stadium. But considering the confines of the Westport playing space, it works best if you think of it as a Las Vegas lounge act. She Loves You! is an orgy of ongoing melody, and on its own terms, is very satisfying indeed. Through January 4, 2009, at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue at I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $44 to $48. Visit www.theplayhouseatwestport.com or call 314-469-7529. (DB)

The War of the Worlds Ladies and gentlemen, here is a bulletin! Eighty years ago this week, millions of Americans got snookered by the Mercury Theater's live radio adaption of H.G. Wells' science-fiction novel about an invasion by Martians. (After that Sunday-night broadcast ended on October 30, 1938, KMOX radio here in St. Louis received more than 700 calls from frantic listeners.) What a nifty idea to celebrate this legendary hoax by re-creating the original transmission. Director Donna Northcutt and her cast of eleven (especially Aaron Orion Baker's pompous Orson Welles) faithfully capture that freak event, delivering an hour's entertainment that intrigues all these decades later more as living history than as fright. Performed by St. Louis Shakespeare through November 2 at the Missouri History Museum, Lindell Boulevard at DeBaliviere Avenue. Tickets are $20 ($18 for students and seniors). Call 314-361-5664 or visit www.stlshakespeare.org. (DB)

 
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