St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown, Paul Friswold and Lew Prince suss out the local theater scene

Mass Appeal First staged in 1980, Bill C. Davis' two-character drama about a complacent older priest and a firebrand of a seminarian has been undercut by current events. The conflict surrounding the young aspirant, Mark Dolson (played with edgy spark by Dylan Duke), is his polyamorous past, and how it may keep the monsignor from denying him the collar. In light of revelations about how the Church handled its actual sex scandals, this sticking point now seems false, and so the play's impact is lessened. Still, as a story of two men finding in each other something they both lack, Mass Appeal continues to succeed. The genial, emotionally disconnected Father Farley (Alan Knoll) remains familiar and suitably weak, unable to resist another drink, another sidestep, another concession. Knoll and Duke spar well, but it's in the quieter moments that they both shine. While attempting to impart the finer points of sermon writing, Fr. Farley drops his joking pretense and challenges Dolson to consider the congregation not as sinners who need to be goaded to a more heavenly state, but "as they are"; Duke's face crumples in quiet pain at his own arrogance, Knoll smiles warmly and the two men reveal something secret about themselves. Presented by Dramatic License Productions through June 12 at Dramatic License Theatre, 291 Chesterfield Mall, Chesterfield. Tickets are $22 to $25. Call 636-220-7012 or visit www.dramaticlicenseproductions.org. (PF)

The Montford Point Marine The spirit of Memorial Day continues through June in the world premiere of Samm-Art Williams' emotional story about Robert Charles Wilson, who in July of 1943 was among the first African Americans to enlist in the U.S. Marines. The still-segregated Marines trained their black enlistees in Montford Point, North Carolina. The action, an amalgam of drama and comedy, plays out in 1993 on the 50th anniversary of Robert's enlistment, as well as in flashbacks to the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. In a Capra-esque account of dreams deferred, we see Robert's pride in breaking barriers as well as the toll that accompanied that pride. The cast includes Linda Kennedy as Robert's wife, Chauncy Thomas as his son and Whit Reichert in three supporting roles. The script makes enormous demands on the actor who plays Robert, and J. Samuel Davis rises to the challenge with a portrayal of range, depth and variety. Performed by the Black Rep through June 26 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $47. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org. (DB)

The Taming of the Shrew One of Shakespeare's most foolproof comedies is put to the test in the current annual production from Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. The unorthodox wooing of the tempestuous Katherina by skylarking soldier of fortune Petruchio has been moved to a vague, imprecise world that, according to director Sean Graney, sometimes might be America in the 1950s. But then again sometimes it might not. There's not much for the actors to cling to here. Or for viewers either. But for those diehard Bard-ophiles who don't care how half-baked their Shakespeare is, this two-hour assemblage of shtick might provide some intermittent laughs. Performed at 8 p.m. nightly (except Tuesdays) through June 19 on Art Hill in Forest Park. Admission is free. Call 314-531-9800 or visit www.sfstl.com. (DB)

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