St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene

Newly Reviewed
Cabaret In 1966, when it was first staged, who could have guessed that a musical about storms in the wind sweeping through 1930 Berlin would become one of the most oft-produced shows of our time? But nowadays Cabarets come hurling at us like pitches in a batting cage. Perhaps audiences are drawn to the showy Kit Kat Klub Emcee (Carl Schneider). But it has been my experience that productions rise or fall on chanteuse Sally Bowles, who is usually so exaggerated that she becomes unwatchable. For this student production, director Gary Wayne Barker actually seems to have taken the time to read the script, which describes Sally as "rather pretty, rather sophisticated, rather child-like, exasperating and irresistible." Through a cocaine-induced haze, that's precisely how Katie McGee plays her. And whaddaya know? In a very welcome change, Sally actually makes sense. Performed by Saint Louis University Theatre through November 21 in Xavier Hall, 3733 West Pine Mall (on the SLU campus). Tickets are $10 ($9 for seniors and faculty, $7 for students). Call 314-977-3327 or visit www.slu.edu/theatre. — Dennis Brown

The Children's Hour "Everybody lies, all the time." So states a well-intentioned doctor midway through Lillian Hellman's 1934 melodrama about the repercussions of the Big Lie. Seventy-five years later, Hellman's oh-so-civil tale of quiet destruction continues to resonate: Watch for it next season in London, then New York, with Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss. In those same roles, Deborah Becker and NoreenAnn Moore may lack star polish, but they've got the requisite passion. As two teachers accused of being lesbians, the actresses ride on the backs of Hellman's sharp, declarative sentences to tell a tale that retains a surprising immediacy. Performed by Clayton Community Theatre through November 21 at the Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road, Clayton. Tickets are $15 ($12 for students and seniors). Call 314-721-9228 or visit www.placeseveryone.org. (DB)

The Good Doctor Reviewed in this issue.

Rock 'n' Roll Reviewed in this issue.

South Pacific Don't let the low-key opening fool you; once South Pacific gets a head of steam, it really moves. Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical about love and war is jampacked with great numbers and strong performances by our thwarted lovers, Nellie Forbush (Carmen Cusack) and Emile de Becque (David Pittsinger). Cusack captures the right blend of naïve enthusiasm and confusion for country bumpkin Nellie, but Pittsinger's operatic vocals are occasionally too ponderous for the light score. (You'd kill to have his speaking voice, though, a penetrating, bass-heavy instrument that delivers his lines with sophistication.) Timothy Gulan crafts a cunning and funny performance as inveterate con artist Luther Billis, and he and the male company knock "There's Nothing Like a Dame" out of the park. Anderson Davis likewise stuns with restrained anger during "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught," Thomas Cable's still-potent explanation of American racism. Through November 21 at the Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $28 to $70. Call 314-534-1678 or visit www.fabulousfox.com. — Paul Friswold

Ongoing
Long Day's Journey into Night Eighteen years of family accusations and humiliations are compressed into eighteen hours of an August day in 1912 (which play out onstage in nearly four hours). Eugene O'Neill's acclaimed play, written in 1942 but, on his orders, not produced until after his death, remains a rare example of theater in the grand manner. It needs to be staged large and played large. Yet aside from the occasional theatrical shock wave, this production is nearly as still as a staged reading. To gaze upon Long Day's Journey in the intimate Kranzberg playing space is to be made acutely aware of its maddening excesses and repetitions — to be reminded that the play is an unfinished work of art. Performed through November 21 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students and seniors). Call 314-799-8399 or visit www.muddywaterstheatre.com. (DB)

Marry Me a Little What a delectable treat it is to have a Sondheim revue on hand even as the world is celebrating his 80th birthday and the publication of the first volume of his memoirs. The conceit underlying Marry Me a Little is that we're hearing obscure songs that either were cut from hit Broadway shows before they opened or come from unproduced Sondheim works. But because Marry Me a Little is now nearly 30 years old, even Sondheim's most remote songs have received repeated recordings. Over the course of an hour, eighteen glorious ballads, charm songs and patter songs are sung by Laura Ernst and Scott Tripp. The piano, played by director Seth Ward Pyatt, apparently is in the balcony of the Gaslight Theater, which helps to fill the auditorium with sound. The acoustics are terrific. You won't miss a lyric — and what magical lyrics they are. Produced by Citilites Theatre through November 21 at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle Avenue. Tickets are $18 to $20 ($15 to $17 for students and seniors). Call 314-773-1879 or visit www.citilitestheatre.com. (DB)

Treading Backwards Thru Quicksand (Without Wearing Your Water Wings) Mattie (Amy Loui) and Sophie (Edie Avioli) are middle-aged New Yorkers who have recently lost their husbands — the former to infidelity, the latter to death — and who decide to get their grooves back through fruity drinks (blueberry brandy), new men (Tex and Irish Boy) and long conversations on the rooftop. It's a plot familiar to anyone who has fried green tomatoes, got their ya-ya's out, had sex in the city or eaten, prayed and loved (and yes, Jimmy Choo shoes are mentioned more than once). That's either an endorsement or a warning. Despite the limitations of Sandra Marie Vago's script, Avioli delivers a fine performance as a woman haunted, quite happily, by her husband's ghost. The final goodbye between Mattie and the deceased Bernie (Scott Sears) is a genuinely moving scene and makes you wish there'd been more room in the play for the two of them. Presented by Black Cat Theatre under the direction of Wayne Loui through November 20 at the Black Cat Theatre, 2810 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood. Tickets are $25. Call 314-781-8300 or visit www.blackcattheatre.org. (PF)

 
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