St. Louis Stage Capsules

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

The Daughter of the Regiment Opera Theatre of St. Louis' new production of composer Gaetano Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment is beautifully sung, artfully staged, frothy and entertaining — the opera equivalent of what Hollywood likes to call a "date movie." This bel canto classic, which features a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard, provides an ideal vehicle for soprano Ashley Emerson and a talented cast. Director Seán Curran's deft choreography, Kirkwood High grad John McDaniel's sure hand with the baton and a delightfully goofy cameo by Sylvia McNair make the evening complete. Through June 26 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $25 to $120 ($15 for students, K-12 teachers and active military, subject to availability). Call 314-961-0644 or visit www.opera-stl.org. — Lew Prince

Just Desserts These four one-act plays and two monologues reveal Neil LaBute's gifts for humor and compassion while still demonstrating his renowned ability to terrify. Directors Milt Zoth and Kevin Beyer shepherd an exemplary cast through conversations about racism, loneliness, death art and infidelity, and there's not a dull moment in the bunch. It's unfair to single out one performer from the ensemble, but there's no denying the raw power (emphasis on "raw") of Emily Baker's turn as a pregnant woman confronting her unfaithful husband (William Roth). Roth plays him as a selfish bozo who's certain he can spin his affair into a marriage-builder rather than a -breaker, but Baker's wife out-smarts, out-argues and out-justifies him right to the bitter end. Hers is the sort of bracing, commanding performance you'll remember for a long time — it'll also terrify any philanderers in the crowd into serial monogamy, at least for a little while. Presented by St. Louis Actors' Studio through June 19 at the Gaslight Theatre,.58 North Boyle Avenue; Call 314-458-2978 or visit www.stlas.org . Tickets are $20 to $25. (PF)

Don Giovanni May was a tough month for sexual miscreants. The world's most feared terrorist was reduced to Osama bin Wankin', the former governor of California was exposed as the Sperminator, and the head of the International Monetary Fund turned political metaphor on its head: Rather than figuratively rape the African continent, as the Fund has been accused of doing for decades, he went and got himself indicted for physically raping an African. Appropriate, then, that Opera Theatre of St. Louis opened its 2011 season with Mozart's study of Don Giovanni's descent into Hell. Perfectly executed by conductor and Mozart expert Jane Glover, the Saint Louis Symphony and a superbly talented cast, the gorgeous score alone is worth the price of admission. Lorenzo Da Ponte's libretto juxtaposes Giovanni's ruthless manipulation of those around him against wildly comic interludes, and the injection of modern elements (Giovanni kills the Commendatore with a pistol) adds a jagged edge to OTSL's production. Through June 25 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $25 to $120 ($15 for students, K-12 teachers and active military, subject to availability). Call 314-961-0644 or visit www.opera-stl.org. (LP)

Kind Sir Jane Kimball (Kirsten Wylder) is a successful Broadway actress, but she's in a funk because there's no man in her life. Immediately Norman Krasna's Kind Sir shows its age, but stick with it; the almost superfluous first act gives way to a more comic Act Two, as perfect gentleman — in '50s values, this means "wealthy and charming" — Phillip Clair (Jim Fuchs) arrives to sweep Jane off her feet. His unfortunate marriage, which cannot be dissolved, keeps him from fulfilling Jane completely, but it does offer the requisite dramatic tension. (If the plot sounds familiar, that might be due to the fact that Krasna turned the script into a screenplay for Indiscreet, which starred Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant.) Fuchs is a little wooden in the early going, but he warms up to give Phillip a dashing presence. Wylder is quite the glamour puss, swanning across the stage with impeccable grace; she makes Jane the most multidimensional character in the play, and she's got deliciously arch comic timing. The third act, when the lovers must overcome the twin obstacles of jealousy (Phillip) and betrayal (Jane), delivers the most consistent laughs. Presented by Act Inc. through June 19 at the Fontbonne University Fine Arts Center Theatre, 6800 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton. Tickets are $20. Call 314-725-9108 or visit www.actinc.biz. (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)

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