It's not just stockings that get stuffed at Christmastime. So too do area theaters. Beginning this week, the December calendar becomes clogged with too many shows to review on one page. Here instead is a preview of the bounty that awaits the dedicated theatergoer.
Black Nativity: A Holiday Celebration Joseph and Mary weren't the only ones who had trouble finding a roof for the night; the Black Rep also has been seeking new lodgings. But the company has found sanctuary in the Emerson Performance Center at Harris-Stowe State University. Here, the Black Rep will pull out one of its perennial favorites: a soaring gospel-music retelling of the birth of Christ. (December 4-22; call 314-534-3810)
The Butterfingers Angel, Mary & Joseph, Herod the Nut, & the Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols in a Pear Trees The author of this holiday entertainment is William Gibson, the prize-winning playwright best known for The Miracle Worker — which means that the show is not going to be as cloyingly cute as its title suggests because Gibson was incapable of writing either cloyingly or cute. We're told that Gibson penned this piece for his church in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, so it's serendipitous that Stray Dog Theatre is staging the play in Tower Grove Abbey. (December 5-21; call 314-865-1995)
Hannah Senesh Her life was short; she died at age 23. Prior to her execution in 1944, Hannah Senesh wrote in her journal, "The dice have rolled, I have lost." How does an affluent young girl, living in relative security in Palestine at the outset of World War II, die at the hands of a German firing squad? The absorbing answer unfolds in this one-woman play by David Schechter and performed at New Jewish Theatre by actress Shanara Gabrielle. (December 5-22; call 314-442-3283)
Kosher Lutherans It's the first night of Hanukah. But if two Jews living in LA want to adopt the child of a woman who hails from the Bible Belt, they had best become Christian real fast. A relatively new comedy by William Missouri Downs, staged by HotCity Theatre. (December 6-21; call 314-289-4063)
Medal of Honor Rag Don't expect candy canes and tinsel at this one. A lot goes down in Tom Cole's compelling 65-minute account of a therapy session between a white psychiatrist and a black soldier who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. This 1975 drama about the residue of the Vietnam War retains the lethal potency of a just-discovered landmine that has not yet been defused. West End Players Guild stages the play at the Missouri History Museum (December 5-15; call 314-367-9017)
The Mousetrap There's no place like home for the holidays — unless you happen to live at Monkswell Manor. Then you might wish for a little less snow so that help could arrive to stop Dame Agatha Christie from killing off her characters. At least we can rely on the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis to dispatch the victims with style and finesse. (December 4-29; call 314-969-4925)
Oh, Hell! R-S Theatrics has provided this umbrella title for two ungodly one-acts. We first met production head Bobby Gould in David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow. "Bobby Gould in Hell" continues his sorry saga down under (and we don't mean Australia). "The Devil and Billy Markham" is a monologue by Shel Silverstein — which would suggest that it's not mindless family fare for the kiddies. (December 6-15; call 314-456-0071)
Smokey Joe's Café: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller Lifetime songwriting partners Jerry Leiber and Mark Stoller met as teenagers in 1950 and got in on the ground floor of rock & roll. Their indelible hits include "Dance With Me," "Poison Ivy," "On Broadway," "Love Potion No. 9" and "Hound Dog." On and on the songs yakety yak, serving up a spirited celebration of an era when the good times rolled. Expect Webster University's Stage III to shake. (December 4-15; call 314-968-7128)
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