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

Newly Reviewed
4:48 Psychosis Director Pamela Reckamp and the Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble have done a service to the community by bringing Sarah Kane's unorthodox work to the stage; you don't see something as alien as this very often. The play is about a young woman's mental disintegration and her pursuit of suicide as a solution, and her struggle to reject this solution even as it becomes more attractive and inevitable. Four actresses play the role — Audrey Martin, Cara Barresi, Kimberly C. Mason and Margeau Baue Steinau — delivering the lines in a round, in echo and most compellingly in chorus. Kane's words sting and reverberate with horrid truth, in monolithic declarations and in frustrating repetition. Barresi limns a terrible vulnerability in her motions and stance, and Steinau exerts a gravitational pull through sheer force of presence. At times the play trembles under its own avant pretensions, but there are more moments when it exposes something beautiful and empathetic, bypassing the intellect to directly address the heart in language elegant and honest. It's not about suicide; it's about life. Through March 7 at the Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive; 314-835-7415 or www.slightlyoff.org. Tickets are $15.— Paul Friswold

Eurydice Reviewed in this issue.

Ongoing
The Miracle Worker To people who attended mainstream schools with deaf, blind and developmentally disabled children, William Gibson's beloved dramatization of Helen Keller's childhood feels a bit creaky. Captain Keller (played with appropriate bluster by John Rensenhouse) persistently remarks that his daughter is a savage and an animal and doubts her ability to learn anything or become much of a person. The story takes place in a different time, but as much of the drama hinges upon the revelation that there is a functional brain in Helen's head, the play often feels as if the audience is waiting for the cast to catch up with us. As Helen, Hannah Ryan — who'll alternate performances with Olivia Jane Prosser throughout the run — deftly handles the requirements of being blind, deaf and mute, especially in her epic struggle over dinner etiquette with her teacher, Annie, played by Amy Landon. Landon counteracts much of the play's draggy timing by infusing Annie with a dry wit and almost grim sense of humor. John Ezell's set is remarkable: A jumble of kitchen, bedroom and porch pinched together without hallways or logic, it's a clever manifestation of what the house feels like to Helen. Presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis under the direction of Susan Gregg through March 8 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $14.50 to $65 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $10 and $15 respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org. (PF)

A Song for Coretta As mourners stand in the chill outside Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church to pay their final respects to Coretta Scott King, a young freelance reporter (Candace Jeanine) interviews some of the women in line. The first hour of the Black Rep's performance of this intermissionless play is absorbing and well staged by Erik Kilpatrick. The dignity that emanates from the commanding Andrea Frye as a woman who once met Mrs. King is delightfully contrasted by the always-resourceful Rory Lipede as a bimbo who wouldn't know Coretta King from King Creole. But in the final half hour, when playwright Pearl Cleage counterpoints the travails of a Katrina survivor (Cathy Simpson) with those of a soldier (Leah Stewart) on the verge of deserting, their duologue strives for a theatrical lyricism that is strained at best. At this point Coretta is essentially shut out of her own play. Through March 15 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square; 314-534-3810 or www.theblackrep.org. Tickets are $17 to $43. — Dennis Brown

 
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