Orpheus Descending HotCity Theatre battles an exposition-heavy first act and an arcane title in this crazier-than-usual Tennessee Williams play, and ultimately triumphs over the script's deficiencies. A sizzling second act showcases strong acting by Donna Parrone and Tyler Vickers as an adulterous couple and Chopper Leifheit as her high-school beau. Other standouts include Ruth Heyman as a passionate painter, Julie Layton as the local bad girl and William Burch as the archetypal Southern bigot. Never one accused of subtlety, Williams stuffs the play with symbolism ranging from Greek myth to American idols. This is not fast-food theater; though trimmed to a digestible length, the production is a multicourse meal that improves as the evening progresses. Through December 2 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-289-4060 or visit www.hotcitytheatre.org.
Urinetown, the Musical All the elements direction, choreography, sets, lighting, costuming, a take-no-prisoners band have come together in peerless synchronicity to elevate this satirical exercise in innocence and cynicism into an extravagant entertainment that raises the bar for locally produced musicals. The production is a stunner, and the entire ensemble headed by Steve Isom, Joneal Joplin, Ben Nordstrom, Jayne Paterson, Sandie Rosa and Zoe Vonder Haar would be hard to improve upon. By evening's end this dark fable about a drought-ridden town in which a petty tyrant employs scare tactics to control the fearful masses and the good guys only succeed in screwing things up reveals itself as the quintessential Iraq War musical. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through December 10 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $20 to $55 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstlorg.
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