St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene in St. Louis

Black Comedy/White Liars There are laughs aplenty in Peter Shaffer's one-joke farce set in an apartment that's plunged into darkness when a fuse blows. The conceit here is that the audience can see what the characters cannot. The script is intermittently clever, and this community-theater staging is very amusing indeed. The problem is that Shaffer apparently insists that Black Comedy be preceded by an arid one-act about a phony fortuneteller, originally called White Lies but recently rewritten under the title White Liars. By any name it makes for dreary trudging. How sad that a viewer has to endure an hour of bad writing before he can be entertained. Performed by the Clayton Community Theatre through November 23 at the Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road. Tickets are $15 ($12 for seniors and students). Call 314-721-9228 or visit www.placeseveryone.org. — Dennis Brown

The Little Dog Laughed Diane, the combustible actor's agent at the center of this wicked satire, is the goddess of the Hollywood deal, and god help anyone who gets in her way. One of the keen accomplishments of Douglas Carter Beane's play is that he manages to transform an essentially humorless harridan into a delightful howl, and actress Erika Rolfsrud in turn transforms the role into an exploding firecracker. She dominates the evening every time she appears. Oh yes, there's a plot too, something to do with Diane working like a beaver to keep the public from learning that her most saleable client, a hunk of a movie star, is a closet queen. But what works best here is Rolfsrud, who is a joy to behold as she pricks the cynical show biz industry with a hail of poison darts. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through November 30 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $18 to $50. Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstlorg. (DB)

Nine Parts of Desire Heather Raffo's Nine Parts of Desire exposes the lives of nine Iraqi women — and they're not anything like the faceless burqas seen on the evening news. Women in veils divorce their husbands for infidelity, educated exiles who hated Saddam's reign now find themselves regretting the Americans they once championed, and an Iraqi-American's extended family, threatened daily by bombs, calls their New York kin to offer condolences after 9/11. Director Milton Zoth blends these individual narratives together into a cohesive whole to create a comprehensive and insightful tale of survival and hope. Brooke Edwards, Sara Renschen and Mary Schnitzler portray the nine women with grace, sorrow, optimism, and bitter sadness. At the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle Avenue; 314-421-4400 or www.stlas.org) through November 23. Tickets are $18 to $25. — Paul Friswold

A Perfect Ganesh Reviewed in this issue.

Romeo and Juliet 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 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)

Smoke on the Mountain Try not to think of Connie Ray and Alan Bailey's Smoke on the Mountain as a bluegrass musical rife with testimonials to the saving grace of the Lord. Instead consider it a humanistic rallying cry. In these songs, delivered beautifully by a very talented ensemble (although Tim Schall's performance as Uncle Stanley must really be singled out for its quality), director Deanna Jent expands the concept of a family pulling together for support and love so that all of us are part of that family. The result is heartwarming, and sidesplitting — Colleen Backer's turn as sister June, the family's eager but inexperienced sign-language broadcast system, is riotous. Presented by Mustard Seed Theatre through November 23 at the Fontbonne University Fine Arts Center Theatre, 6800 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-719-8060 or visit www.mustardseedtheatre.com. (PF)

 
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