Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

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The All Night Strut!

The All Night Strut! It's all tuxedos and evening gowns in this tight, no-nonsense celebration of swing music, set in an underground bistro. Each of the twelve principal ensemble members has a moment to shine (Luke Steingruby performs a sensitive rendition of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square"), but the nicest thing about the show is that the entire student cast is onstage all the time, and everyone delights in everyone else's contributions. Performed by Lindenwood University's theater department through October 22 at the Jelkyl Theatre, Roemer Hall, 209 South Kingshighway, St. Charles. Tickets are $12 ($10 for seniors, $8 for students). Call 636-949-4878 or visit (Dennis Brown)

Bingo Extravaganza! Apparently $90 million is spent on bingo every week, but (until now) no one has ever confused it for theater. This world-premiere offering about a Catholic charity bingo evening, co-authored by Maripat Donovan (of Late Nite Catechism fame), is an interactive ménage of karaoke, sheet cake and one-liners -- all seemingly contrived to delay having to play bingo. The evening is akin to writing a cookbook without any recipes. The three cast members (Barbara Hunt as Sister Rita Mary, Page Hearn and Joe Taylor as two priests) will surely settle into their shtick as they continue to work with audiences. But despite humor that seems cloned from Late Nite Catechism, the show lacks the gentle soul that made Catechism must-see theater. Performed through November 6 at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $32.50 to $35. Call 314-469-7529. (DB)

Boston Marriage Imagine The Importance of Being Earnest meets Sexual Perversity in Chicago and you'll get a sense of the intriguing mix of high vocabulary and lowbrow humor served up in David Mamet's Boston Marriage. Set in a drawing room circa 1900, the play features Erin Kelly and Meme Wolff as Claire and Anna, two middle-aged ladies involved in an off-and-on lesbian relationship. Kelly and Wolff have several delightful scenes, including a marvelous discourse about pie and a discussion of braving prison life together. But ultimately the stakes aren't high enough for either of them, and the play becomes more about style than substance. Director Larry Mabrey's staging only adds to the problems: He never lets the women sit for more than a moment -- it's almost as if they're playing musical chairs. While some lovely stage pictures are created, the thread of the plot is often lost. Presented by Avalon Theatre through October 23 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard. Tickets $28 ($23 for students and seniors). Call 314-351-6482 or visit (Deanna Jent)

Famous Monsters This new play about reconciliation and forgiveness takes the viewer on a perilous journey into the dark recesses of the haunted mind of a former heroin addict. Although the goal is ambitious, apparently no one told playwright Margeau Baue Steinau (or her collaborators B. Weller and Rachel Jackson) that theater and poetry do not mix. Every time another poem gets read, the action skids to a halt. Nor did anyone tell Steinau that stage dialogue must consist of more than questions and answers. When a fellow shows a girl his drawings -- and those drawings unexpectedly come to ominous life -- that's theater. Those moments command the stage and summon up fresh, original images, but there's not enough of them to sustain the evening. Performed by the HotCity GreenHouse through October 23 at the Theatre at St. John's, St. John's United Methodist Church, 5000 Washington Place (at Kingshighway). Tickets are $10. Call 314-482-9125 or visit (DB)

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Reviewed in this issue.

Going to See the Elephant Reviewed in this issue.

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