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 he holds 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
Evie's WaltzCarter W. Lewis' well-written (and even-better-performed) drama is ostensibly about discovering why a teenage boy — the never-seen Danny — brought a gun to school. His parents Clay (Ted Deasy) and Gloria (Annie Fitzpatrick) learn from Danny's girlfriend Evie (Magan Wiles) that gun ownership is the least of Danny's problems. Director Andrea Urice knows exactly where this story needs to go, and she allows the tension to build and explode with a canny rhythm. Deasy and Fitzpatrick find the terrified nooks of parenthood, and also the boundless love. As the nerveless Evie, Wiles delivers another quality performance that only gets stronger as the play races toward the conclusion. Outstanding, vital theater — go see it. Presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through November 9 at the Emerson Studio in the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $41 to $52. Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org. (PF)
Pippin There's magic afoot in this admirably modest staging of the 1972 musical about the first hippie. Young viewers especially seem to feel an affinity for this paper-thin tale about Charlemagne's unhappy son Pippin, the "prince of despair" who seeks meaning in his life. The tuneful score is an early indicator of Stephen Schwartz's relentless gift for melody. The evening benefits from savvy performances by Jeffrey D. Pruett as the mesmerizing narrator and Jeffrey M. Wright, who is sympathetically appealing in the title role. Add a radiant Julie Venegoni as the romantic interest, and the end result is a satisfying potion of good fun. Performed by Stray Dog Theatre through November 8 at the Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue. Tickets are $20 ($18 for students and seniors). Call 314-865-1995 or visit www.straydogtheatre.org.
— Dennis Brown
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 West Port 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)