On the Razzle It's a rare bottle of Champagne that continues to bubble two hours after it was uncorked. But this sprightly Webster Conservatory staging of Tom Stoppard's comic entertainment about the multiple mishaps of two timid store clerks out for a day of adventure remains as effervescent at the evening's ebullient end as it is at the frothy outset. Adapted from a nineteenth-century Austrian farce (the same play that inspired Thornton Wilder to write The Matchmaker, which in turn led to Hello, Dolly!), the witty script is an excuse for Stoppard to wallow in verbal dexterity. But the constant puns are only the beginning. The entire evening, directed by Doug Finlayson, is a charming romp for an appealing student cast. The farce plays out in a physical production — sets, costumes, lighting — that's as invitingly delectable as an elaborate sugar confection. Performed by the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts through February 28 at the Emerson Studio Theatre, Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $12 ($6 for students and seniors). Call 314-968-7128 or visit www.webster.edu. (DB)
The Shape of Things When we meet Adam (Billy Kelly) he's a schlubby security guard at an art gallery. Evelyn (Shanara Gabrielle) captures his fancy from the get-go, as she's about to deface a sculpture on his watch. Something about his straightforward nature appeals to the strident art student, and they begin a whirlwind relationship. Evelyn suggests a better diet and a new hairstyle for Adam — and this being a Neil LaBute play, there's much talk about the meaning and nature of art and a menacing subtext to the whole affair. Other than her attractiveness and sexual availability, it's difficult to see what draws Adam to Evelyn. She's combative on every front, demanding wholesale changes in his lifestyle, and she offers little warmth or even a likable personality. Adam is eager to please — perhaps too eager, as his friends Phillip (Christian Vieira) and Jenny (Ann Ashby) often point out. Kelly and Vieira have the best scene in the play, a confrontation initiated by Phillip that shows why the two are friends — they can forgive each other for almost anything. The final fifteen minutes are a harrowing experience in typical LaBute fashion, memorable if not satisfying. Presented by St. Louis Actors' Studio through March 7 at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle Avenue. Tickets are $25 ($18 for students and seniors). Call 314-458-2978 or visit www.stlas.org. — Paul Friswold
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