Mauritius Theresa Rebeck's drama about the backroom sale of two of the most valuable stamps in the world reveals all that's grisly and greedy in human nature. Jackie (a terrific Sarajane Alverson) is the seller, a tough broad who has taken a lifelong beating and sees the stamps as a way out of her troubles. Dennis (Stephen Peirick) is the charming sonofabitch who has snaked his way into her life as the third man brokering the sale. Sterling (Matt Hanify) is the shady buyer, and the deal will take place in Philip's shop, because Philip (Charles Heuvelman) can authenticate the stamps. Director Sean Ruprecht-Belt charts a sure course through Rebeck's dialogue; though the second act, given over to the extended negotiation, flies by with terrifying grimness, it never feels hurried. Hanify's Sterling is a chilling monster, a philatelist whose lust for the stamps surpasses zealous on the way to maniacal. Heuvelman inhabits Philip's slump-shouldered bitterness with admirable skill; he's the only person involved in the sale who loves the stamps with purity, and it makes him miserable. A rewarding and nasty show that will stick with you. Presented by West End Players Guild through April 25 at Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union Boulevard. Tickets are $18. Call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org. — Paul Friswold
Outlying Islands A remote, windswept island far from civilization is the locale for an evening of allegory. Set during the summer prior to the onset of World War II, the story revolves around two Cambridge naturalists who have been sent by the British government to conduct the first official survey of the isle's abundant bird life. Not unexpectedly, dangers from without and within threaten this idyllic existence, and it may be that the government is concerned with matters other than bird sightings. Scottish playwright David Greig strives for a lofty lyricism. Ultimately the play's impact will depend on your tolerance for metaphor. Performed by Upstream Theater through April 25 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $25 ($15 for students, $20 for seniors). Call 314-863-4999 or visit www.upstreamtheater.org. (DB)
Romeo and Juliet Director Robin Weatherall's slight reimagining of Romeo and Juliet is set in Palestine in 1947 during the violent buildup surrounding the birth of Israel. So Romeo (the ever-dependable Rusty Gunther) and the Montagues are Jewish and Juliet (Meg Rodd Gunther, brassy yet beguiling) and her Capulet kin are Muslim. It's a compelling setup, but nothing in the action or language ever conveys Romeo's Judaism; this becomes distracting at key moments, such as when Romeo goes to see the presumably Anglican Father Laurence (Kevin Beyer in a well-crafted characterization) for "confession." But Weatherall's decision to cast Brooke Edwards as a female Mercutio secretly in love with an oblivious Romeo is change we can believe in; Edwards imbues Mercutio's speeches with towering passion and bitter yearning. Too bad Mercutio dies in Act One. Also of note is B. Weller's absolutely terrifying turn as Capulet; his brutal argument with daughter and wife elicited spontaneous applause. Presented by the New Jewish Theatre through May 2 at the Missouri History Museum, Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue (in Forest Park). Tickets are $26 to $34 (discounts available for students, seniors and JCC or MHM members). Call 314-361-9017 or visit www.newjewishtheatre.org. (PF)Ongoing
Five Guys Named Moe As the show begins, our lovesick hero (Anthony Tarvin Jr.) sits beside a radio tuned to a station "for night owls who have got the blues." He's nursing a bottle of beer, and he also must be smoking a little something, because in a sudden hallucinogenic haze, his radio fills the stage. Out of this elephantine radio (cleverly designed by Chris Pickart) emerge five rejects from Nathan Detroit's permanent floating craps game. Each calls himself Moe; together they spend the rest of the high-voltage, finger-snapping, suspender-plucking evening singing songs by R&B pioneer Louis Jordan. In no time at all, the blues give way to hoedowns, calypso sing-alongs (when's the last time you were in a conga line?) and choo-choo boogies. Even if you've never heard of Jordan, these five Moes — Drummond Crenshaw, Herman Gordon, Horace E. Smith, Gary E. Vincent, Sean Walton — will make sure you have a high-stompin' romp. And when they slow down long enough to blend their voices on "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby," the sound is downright sublime. Directed by Ron Himes and performed by the Black Rep through April 25 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $43. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org. (DB)
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