Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Beauty and the Beast Reviewed in this issue.

Glen or Glenda: Live! Reviewed in this issue.

Intimate Apparel Shimmering corsets courtesy of costume designer Reggie Ray create an eye-popping good time for the audience in this award-winning play. Lynn Nottage's intelligent -- though occasionally overwritten -- script unveils the unexpected romantic entanglements of 35-year-old Esther, who makes a living creating interesting underwear for women on both sides of the street (as it were). Linda Kennedy anchors the show and is well supported by a talented cast. While love ends badly for all the women in the play, there's a satisfying sense that Esther is down but certainly not defeated. This entertaining production, directed by artistic director Ron Himes, is the final show of the Saint Louis Black Repertory Company's 2005 season. Through June 25 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $25 to $37.50 ($10 rush seats for students available ten minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810. (Deanna Jent)

Kiss of the Spider Woman The exposed stone walls and dilapidated ceiling of the ArtLoft Theatre add appropriate environmental touches to New Line Theatre's production of Kander and Ebb's unusual musical mixture of politics, movie fantasy, torture and love. Set in an Argentine prison in 1976, the story focuses on the relationship between inmates Molina (Scott Tripp) and Valentin (Nicholas Kelly), one jailed for a homosexual encounter with a minor, the other for being a revolutionary. Splendidly sung by Tripp and Kelly, the haunting music is at its best when it explores the pair's relationship. As the film star who occupies Molina's daydreams, Stephanie Brown looks great and dances even better. Sadly, the male chorus that needs to support her isn't up to the task. The ending is awkwardly written and seems nearly impossible to stage; director Scott Miller does his best, but he's fighting a script that really works better as a movie. Through June 18 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue Tickets are $15 to $18 ($10-$15 for students and seniors). Call 534-1111. (DJ)

Rigoletto Giuseppe Verdi had only 40 days to write Rigoletto. But because it was written so quickly, the score is very straightforward, telling the jester's tragic story in bold, unambiguous melodies. In spite of Andrew Porter's sometimes-stilted translation, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis plays to Rigoletto's musical strengths -- the love songs are bright and frothy; the dramatic arias dark and tragic. Arrive early for the preview lecture, a delightful and educational tour de force delivered by rehearsal pianist Miah Im. Through June 25 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $101. Call 314-961-0644. (Lew Prince)

Romeo and Juliet Charles Gounod's nineteenth-century simplification of Shakespeare's tragedy is the opera version of a chick flick, pruning much of the intrigue in the palaces of the warring Capulets and Montagues and focusing on the doomed romance of their offspring. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis specializes in luring up-and-coming singers by offering them a chance at bigger roles than they could get at more famous East Coast or European venues, and this youthfulness works to the company's advantage here, with Alyson Cambridge and Frédéric Antoun bringing bouncy naiveté, tenderness and unmitigated passion to the title roles. Through June 26 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $101. Call 314-961-0644. (LP)

A Streetcar Named Desire There's always a reason to be glad you saw Tennessee Williams' eloquent tragedy of imagination and lies. This current version benefits from Ryan Holshouser's quirky performance that portrays Stanley Kowalski as a victim. As the desperate Blanche DuBois, Kimberly Sansone has many fine moments, especially her seduction scene with the New Orleans newsboy. But what's fundamentally wrong here is that the production has been staged in the round. Director Gary F. Bell also designed the set; he more than anyone should be aware that there is simply too much playing space. Everything that happens in Streetcar is predicated on the fact that Stanley and Stella live in a cramped French Quarter apartment. Here there's no sense of claustrophobia, no feel for the Quarter. It's left to the actors to work twice as hard for half the effect. Performed by Stray Dog Theatre through June 12 at the Little Theatre at Clayton High School, 1 Mark Twain Circle, Clayton. Tickets are $18 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-531-5923. (Dennis Brown)

The Tempest William Metzo's beautifully rendered portrayal of the outcast Prospero captures the rich values inherent in a play that is only a comedy because it's not a tragedy. Alas, Shakespeare's text has been transposed so that Prospero is almost reduced to a supporting player, and when he exits Act One, too much substance exits with him. Performed by the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis through June 19 (except Tuesdays) on the Emerson Stage on Art Hill in Forest Park. Admission is free. Call 314-361-0101. (DB)

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