Spring Arts Guide

Check It Out, Mate
Chess has existed in one form or another for 1,500 years — that's quite a run for a board game. The key to its success is its complex simplicity. Each of the pieces has limitations on their movements, but there are sixteen pieces per side making those moves on only 64 squares. Those limitations spark endless creativity in attack and defense, depending on who is playing and whether they're making the first or second move. That locus of complex simplicity and endless creativity will be exploited — for good, only for good — in Circus Flora's 2014 show, The Pawn. Inspired by the game's origins in India and Persia, The Pawn is set in an exotic dreamworld of myth and magic. The hero, the titular Pawn, must journey through this realm of knights and kings, which is represented by moving chess pieces played by the performers. The stars include equestrian rider S. Caleb Carinci Asch, Finland's juggling sensation Duo Kate & Pasi, and Andriy Bilobrov and his quintet of Jack Russell terriers. The Pawn is performed at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 1 and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday (May 29 through June 22) at Circus Flora's Big Top in Grand Center (Samuel Shepard Drive and North Grand Boulevard; 314-289-4040 or www.circusflora .org). Tickets are $12 to $48. — Paul Friswold


Thursday, June 12

Music of The Who.
Music of The Who.

A Man's Summer
Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! earned a Tony Award for Best Play in 1994 and three years later was adapted for film. Especially in its original theatrical form, McNally's comedy proved a durable success, but perhaps that Tony wasn't won for any groundbreaking innovation with respect to the particulars of plot mechanics. The play's three acts describe a simple arc: a group of friends, all gay men, meet in June for a weekend retreat in a country house; come midsummer, they meet again at the same home; and at the close of summer they convene there a third time. Characters are introduced, problems arise, conflict ensues and in the end we see revelation and resolution. However bare-bones-basic it is in narrative design, McNally's play moved audiences and has established itself as a modern classic. You can enjoy Stray Dog Theatre's take on Love! Valour! Compassion! at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (June 12 through 28) at Tower Grove Abbey (2336 Tennessee Avenue; 314-865-1995 or www.straydogtheatre.org). Tickets are $18 to $20. — Alex Weir

Friday, June 13

The Symphony Sells Out
The Who blew out of the gate already larger than life. Ostensibly just another beat group from the congested early-'60s London scene, the Who was in fact a kinetic singularity, boasting a trio of virtuoso lead instrumentalists unlike anything else ever heard; no one in this band, certainly not the rhythm section of John Entwistle and Keith Moon, consented to play conventional accompaniment. Sonic combat ensued. It was left to the hapless singer to try, somehow, to keep up, but Roger Daltrey was "man enough for two," to nick a line from the Drive-By Truckers. By 1967 the Who was beginning to burst the straps of the three-minute pop straitjacket and ease into more liberating attire, in the form of longer songs and trickier arrangements. On 1969's Tommy the foursome ascended to truly Olympian glory — then proceeded to surpass themselves with Who's Next, and did it again on Quadrophenia. These three titanic masterpieces were ready-made for the enlarging, drama-heightening capability of the symphony orchestra, which counts us straight in to Music of the Who. The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra interprets the great band's oeuvre at at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 13, at Powell Symphony Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-1700 or www.slso.org). Tickets are $35 to $65. — Alex Weir

Saturday, June 14

Like a Rolling Orchestra
Over its long recording career the Rolling Stones have deviated from its musical norm occasionally (1967's Their Satanic Majesties Request, for instance), but most of the time the band has stuck to the surefire template: two guitars, bass, drums, some piano or organ. Sure, saxophones are honked aplenty, too. As to string arrangements or anything approximating classical music, they're not often heard in the Stones canon — the beautiful flute and strings on "Ruby Tuesday" being one notable exception. So how could this thoroughly R&B-steeped band's music possibly work on an orchestral stage? When it's the Saint Louis Symphony providing the leverage, most everything works. Hear for yourself at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 14, at Powell Symphony Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-1700 or www.slso.org) as the SLSO plays Music of the Rolling Stones. Brent Havens conducts, and tickets are $35 to $65. Can we yell out a request? "Moonlight Mile," the languorous, haunting slow burn from Sticky Fingers; it's just begging for that long symphonic kiss. — Alex Weir


Friday, July 11

The Travails of Love
Union Avenue Opera celebrates its nineteenth year of presenting fully staged operas in their original languages this summer, and like most nineteen-year-olds, this season is all about the exquisite agonies wrought by love. The trouble begins with Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 11 through 19), a tale of star-crossed lovers. Violetta is the original party girl, but she consents to settling down with Alfredo, a true romantic. Unfortunately, Violetta's past threatens Alfredo's family, and she consents to break his heart for the greater good. She's secretly dying of consumption, however, which requires one of the great deathbed reconciliations. The St. Louis premiere of André Previn's adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire follows (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, August 1 through 9). Blanche DuBois needs love even more than she needs the kindness of strangers, but is her animalistic brother-in-law Stanley the best match? UAO closes its season with part three of its Ring Cycle, Richard Wagner's Siegfried (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, August 22 through 30). Siegfried is young and brave enough to reforge his father's sword, kill a dragon and win the hand of the now-mortal valkyrie Brünnhilde. That's a pretty happy ending, but this is Wagner — the other shoe drops in next summer's Götterdämmerung, which features the death of everyone involved, plus the whole world. Ain't love grand? All performances take place in the Union Avenue Christian Church (733 North Union Boulevard; 314-361-2881 or www.unionavenueopera.org). Tickets are $30 to $52. — Paul Friswold

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