St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene

 Fiddler on the Roof Director Deanna Jent has crafted a warm and cozy production of the perennial favorite, with the little village of Anatevka — represented by two building façades joined by a wooden floor — set in the round. These walls act as a sounding board when the ensemble sings, creating a glorious resonance. Jerry Russo and Lavonne Byers make a formidable and well-balanced pair as Tevye and Golde, the parents who must marry off three of their five daughters. Russo plays the wily milkman with big-hearted pliability; his ability to acquiesce to happiness, whether it be his daughters' or his own, is his saving grace. Byers makes Golde the toughest of cookies, a pragmatic and dry-witted matriarch whose eventual softening in her duet with Tevye ("Do You Love Me?") is as real and surprising an emotional awakening for her as it is for the audience. Musical director Joe Dreyer provides versatile piano accompaniment, with Laura Sexauer doing double duty as the fiddler and eldest daughter, Tzeitel; her playing is remarkably beautiful. Presented by Mustard Seed Theatre through November 22 at the Fontbonne University Fine Arts Theater, 6800 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton. Tickets are $25 to $35 ($20 for students and seniors). Call 314-719-8060 or visit www.mustardseedtheatre.com. — Paul Friswold

Unbeatable! This new musical is built around a heroine so unpleasant that it's hard to empathize with her struggles. Kristy Cates portrays Tracy Boyd, an aggressive businesswoman who discovers that cancer has infected her body. Not only must Tracy cope without the support of her predictably insensitive husband, but then, in some sort of metaphoric haze, her character is put on trial. As Tracy's mom, Stellie Siteman instills the proceedings with natural poise and understated humor, while John Flack holds his head high and brings some humor to one of the many roles he plays. A program note from the executive producer expresses his hope that viewers will "take away the message of early detection and health screenings...." A noble hope. But in a show that runs more than two hours, early detection is given less than a minute. Through November 22 at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza, 635 Westport Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $39.50. Call 314-469-7529 or visit www.theplayhouseatwestport.com. — Dennis Brown

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Although we're no longer startled by the blunt language and explicit sexual peccadilloes that shocked audiences when this electrifying play debuted in 1962, Edward Albee's lacerating living-room boozefest has lost none of its coruscating power and theatricality. So perhaps the most surprising element of the current Muddy Waters production is how playful the carnage is. At the outset George (Alan Knoll) and Martha (Meme Wolff) are akin to performers, and each is the other's best audience. Because the furthest viewer is only four rows from the stage, what stands out here are the quiet moments that tend to get overshadowed in brassier, more strident stagings. Through November 22 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard (in the Big Brothers Big Sisters building). Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, seniors and active-duty military personnel). Call 314-799-8399 or visit www.muddywaterstheatre.com. (DB)

 
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