Closer You might expect a play so consumed by sex to stir up a little heat, but an icicle chill permeates Patrick Marber's lacerating drama about deceit and betrayal. It gets dizzying trying to keep all these peccadilloes straight, and we're only following the misadventures of four people. If self-destruction is an attribute, then these four are heroic. Closer is a precursor to The Social Network, a more recent story that fascinates despite the absence of one single appealing character. If the razor-sharp dialogue is not quite as shocking as it was when Closer debuted in the late 1990s, its train-wreck nature remains constant. You might not like what you're seeing, but it's hard to turn away. Produced by St. Louis Actors' Studio through February 24 at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle Avenue. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students and seniors). Call 314-458-2978 or visit www.stlas.org.
— Dennis Brown
Shanara Gabrielle, David Graham Jones and Michael Keyloun as Murderers and Nancy Bell as Lady Macduff in Macbeth.
Round and Round the Garden Why don't more theaters stage Alan Ayckbourn plays? There are certainly enough of them. This particular lighthearted romp, set in the garden of a Victorian country home (lushly designed by Todd Shafer), is the conclusion of Ayckbourn's trilogy, The Norman Conquests, about the peccadilloes of a lovable loser who can't help falling in love with nearly every woman he sees. Here we learn that the misbegotten Norman is "a law unto himself," always his own worst enemy, always on the verge of being arrested for breaking and entering. The entire cast is a delight, and Mark Kelley in the lead role is especially droll. "I've never known anyone who can ruin an evening as thoroughly as he can," his sister-in-law suggests. Regardless, this particular evening is grand fun. Performed through February 26 at Black Cat Theatre, 2810 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students and seniors). Call 314-781-8300 or visit www.blackcattheatre.org. (DB)
Ruined The Black Rep is staging a stunningly effective production of Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the brutalization of women during civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the theme is grim, director Ron Himes keeps the play moving at an edge-of-your-seat pace, and Andrea Frye delivers a towering portrayal of a woman who runs a bar and brothel in a remote rainforest. The ultimate triumph of Ruined is that a story haunted by death and despair also throbs with theatrical life. This is not theater you should feel obligated to see because its themes are "important"; this is theater you don't want to miss because the experience is enthralling. Through March 6 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $47. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org. (DB)