Ragtime How gratifying to be exposed to an American musical that is so unrelentingly audacious. Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Houdini and Booker T. Washington are just a few of the celebrated characters who thread their way through this entertaining survey course of pre-World War I America. This musical adaptation of the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow about the intrusion of immigrants and blacks upon the complacency of white America at the turn of the twentieth century is too ambitious for most theaters to even attempt. But this combined effort between the Washington University Performing Arts Department and the Black Rep, an alchemy of amateur and professional, makes for potent and thrilling theater. Through November 1 at Washington University's Edison Theatre, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard (in the Mallinckrodt Student Center), University City. Tickets are $20 ($10 for students and seniors). Call 314-935-6543 or visit http://pad.artsci.wustl.edu/node/265.
— Dennis Brown
Sleuth Anthony Shaffer's mystery manhandles the concept of "fair play" in the framework of England's ongoing class war. Andrew Wyke (Munson Hicks) is a wealthy writer of plummy mysteries that celebrate a bygone England. He invites his wife's lover, self-employed travel agent Milo Tindle (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend), to his manor to bring him in on a scheme that will make both men happy — and that's all the plot that can be safely revealed without spoiling Shaffer's twists. Hicks slathers brash and phony bonhomie on Wyke, but playing the role for laughs robs it of menace. Shaffer's script requires that Milo be both gullible and cunning; it's a combination that defies reason but Goodfriend mostly pulls it off. Sleuth is at times frustrating in the forceful manner in which it drags its audience through leaps of logic from point A to point D. Still, that second act is fraught with peril, thanks to director Michael Evan Haney's use of the infrequent pause to build tension. Presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through November 8 at the the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $18 to $68 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $10 and $15 respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.
— Paul Friswold