Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Dancing on Air: The Katherine Dunham Story Vivian Anderson-Watt anchors a high-kicking Historyonics production. Anderson-Watt choreographed this loving tribute to dance pioneer Dunham and also performs several roles. Monica Parks cuts a striking figure as the Katherine Dunham, while Vernon Goodman's powerful dancing and the support of DeBorah D. Ahmed, Eric Connors and Jeremy Sher keep the beat moving. Dunham's rocky childhood experiences are interwoven with her adult accomplishments most successfully in the second act, with a simmering scene of sexual attraction between Parks and Sher and a beautifully staged confrontation between Dunham and her father. Act Two also features a mini-recital, showcasing some of Dunham's most famous dances. Drummers Arthur Moore and Sylvester "Sunshine" Lee, along with pianist Alerica Anderson, supply the rhythm and musical punctuation in this enjoyable performance. Through February 27 at the Des Lee Auditorium in the Missouri History Museum, Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue. Tickets are $20 ($18 for seniors and MHS members, $10 for students). Call 314-361-5858. (Deanna Jent)

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. (DJ)

My Fair Lady Reviewed in this issue.

The Retreat from Moscow Not all theater has to be in-your-face. William Nicholson's three-character dissection of a failing marriage is marked by civility and quietude. To some viewers, those attributes might add up to boredom; others will find this play intelligent and thoughtful. And how startling to see a sober drama that is neither a revival nor a sleek new superhyped prize winner (no Pulitzer, no Tony). Rather, it's a throwback to that era when, if an author had something on his mind, he wrote a play. The show has been cleanly staged by Steven Woolf and is crisply performed by Darrie Lawrence as the wife who takes too much for granted, Anderson Matthews as her craven husband and Erik Steele as their son who finds his own identity even as his parents are losing theirs. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through March 11 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets $12-$58 (rush tickets available for students and seniors, $8 and $10 respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925. (Dennis Brown)

Stories About the Old Days Blues artist "Mississippi" Charles Bevel and Black Rep veteran Linda Kennedy deftly perform this two-person valentine, recently adapted from a play into a musical. In Ivy Kennedy creates a vibrant character, a strong woman battling internal demons while trying to keep steady footing with an unpredictable former blues singer, Clayborn (Bevel). Both characters are angry, struggling with guilt and questioning God. Their simmering anxiety emerges unexpectedly, like steam bubbles in a thick sauce, while the possibility of a new relationship charges the atmosphere with electricity. The satisfying ending brings Clayborn and Ivy together for what promises to be a bumpy but exhilarating relationship. Bill Harris' revised script needs a little trimming but has at its heart an entertaining story of love. Through March 6 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $25-$37.50 ($10 rush tickets for students available ten minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810. (DJ)

Unexpected Tenderness Reviewed in this issue.

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