In the Continuum Worlds apart, two women — one a responsible wife and mother in Zimbabwe, the other a frivolous teen in Los Angeles — are diagnosed as HIV-positive. This one-act, two-actress, multiple-character play seeks to draw attention to the immense cultural differences and the stark parallels faced by women whose lives are broadsided by the sudden threat of death. Written by two New York University students, In the Continuum reflects the rawness of youth. At the end of this 75-minute sprint, we're given a simple moral: Use a condom. Through May 17 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $30.50 to $43 ($5 discount for students and seniors; $10 rush seats available for students 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org.
— Dennis Brown
Return to the Forbidden Planet Bob Carlton's whimsical take on The Tempest as refracted through a 1950s sci-fi prism features a galaxy's worth of fantastic rock & roll songs, punning wordplays on snippets of Shakespearian monologues and intentionally "Pigs in Space" costuming (courtesy of Betsy Krausnick). But this is no parlor trick of a musical; there's a rich vein of Shakespeare's favorite ingredient — the wondrous depths of the human heart — that elevates the show from cunning stunt to artful meditation on the destructive nature of power and the redemptive power of love. Zachary Allen Farmer is magnificently cast as the nefarious Dr. Prospero, a scientist who's invented "telegenesis," a technological miracle that costs him his wife and child. Farmer's carefully modulated speaking voice hints at a shaky self-control, and his bubbling anger flares into rage with little warning. As the Science Officer, Nikki Glenn reignites his nascent soul during their towering duet of "Go Now." It's touching and wrenching, a threnodic love song that leaves an aching silence in its wake. But director Scott Miller cannily sprinkles humor throughout the show: Watch the background characters during the songs, and you'll see giggling, eye-rolls and bemused head shakes, even as they sing harmony. Presented by New Line Theatre through May 23 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.