Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Chesapeake Reviewed in this issue.

The Curious Savage Talk about a curiosity. This comedy snore about a widow (Marilyn Bass-Hayes) who's been committed to an asylum while being bilked out of her fortune by greedy stepkids was a huge flop when produced on Broadway in 1950. But the minute amateur production rights were released, the show became a smash hit -- and remains so to this day. Go figure. Even its author, John Patrick, later came to realize that he had written "a third-rate play." Who are we to disagree? Director Joan Dolan tries to instill some charm in the old chestnut (using music from The Nutcracker is an amusing touch), but nothing short of mouth-to-mouth would help. Among the other inmates, Dorothy Farmer Davis is back in good form as the sulking artist. Performed by the Kirkwood Theatre Guild through March 19 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road. Tickets are $14. Call 314-821-9956, extension 1. (Dennis Brown)

Defending the Caveman A sitcom-mentality stage play "experience" without the pesky problems of character relationships or plot. As a play, it's pretty good stand-up comedy -- especially for married couples who embody stereotypic gender roles. The solo character is a married guy trying to defend men from disdain. "It's not that guys are assholes," he explains. "They just come from a different culture." Creator Rob Becker romanticizes cavefolk as a model society: They respected and honored gender differences. Nobody called the cavewoman a bitch, nobody called the caveman an asshole (perhaps because language hadn't yet been invented?). Unfortunately the material doesn't really build. Cody Lyman (from Chicago's Second City) plays the Caveman. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $35-$39.50. Call 314-469-7529. (Deanna Jent)

On the Record Reviewed in this issue.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile Steve Martin's ten-year-old comedy about an imaginary 1904 meeting at a Paris bar between the young and still unknown Albert Einstein (David Cooperstein) and the even younger Pablo P. (James Russell Wax) is aging like a fine wine. This lively discourse on art, science and celebrity is always disarming and often delightful. Not every single line elicits a laugh, but every line is written from a comic sensibility that reflects Martin's savvy grasp of theater. This compact production, impressively directed by Michael Jokerst, is engaging from start to finish. The charming cast, an effective set by Steve Myers, a precise lighting design by Jeff David -- everything comes together here to serve Martin's deft script. Community theater doesn't get any more entertaining than this. Performed by Clayton Community Theatre through March 20 at the Little Theatre at Clayton High School, 1 Mark Twain Circle, Clayton. Tickets are $12 and $15. Call 314-534-1111. (DB)

The Robber Bridegroom If you're looking for fine fiddling but want to avoid the St. Patrick's Day crowds, check out this hillbilly hoedown at the ArtLoft Theatre. While the book and lyrics by Alfred Uhry and the music by Robert Waldman aren't always brilliant, Scott Miller's energetic production makes the most of it. Leah Schumacher gives the most noteworthy performance as rich girl Rosamund Musgrove, who falls in love with the mysterious "bandit of the woods" as she tries to dodge an arranged marriage. Michael Heeter as the title character doesn't quite match Schumacher, but he scores some compelling moments, especially in the haunting seduction scene. Jeffrey Pruett, Kimi Short and Christine Brooks portray the "Goat" family with such sharply focused intensity that whenever the play gets boring, you can amuse yourself by watching their reactions from the sidelines. Presented by New Line Theatre through March 26 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $15-18, $10-$15 for kids, students and seniors (half-price tickets available for students ten minutes before curtain). Call 534-1111. (DJ)

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