Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Defending the Caveman A sitcom-mentality stage play experience without the pesky problems of character relationships or plot. Creator and original performer Rob Becker romanticizes cave people as a model society: They respected and honored gender differences. Nobody called the cave woman a bitch; nobody called the cave man an asshole (perhaps because language hadnt yet been invented?). Current Caveman Kevin Burke is an adept comedian; its not his fault the material doesnt really build. Burke is essentially playing Burke -- a guy like lots of guys, talking directly to the audience and pointing out our humorous human failings. If that sounds like your cup of tequila, youll find an ample serving in this production, as well as ample servings of other alcoholic beverages in the theater bar. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Call 314-469-7529. (Deanna Jent)

The Exonerated The premiere offering from HotCity Theatre provides a dynamite evening of polemic theater, as ten talented actors sit on stools and share the compelling horror stories of six people caught in the cogs of America's criminal-justice system. While those represented here eventually were exonerated, the play aims to get you wondering about how many have not been so fortunate. Direction by Ted Gregory is seamless, and the actors personify the deep end of the local acting pool. HotCity could not have hoped for a more auspicious debut. Performed through December 4 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1527 Washington Avenue. Call 314-482-9125. (Dennis Brown)

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change These twenty sketches about dating (I love you), wedding rituals (you're perfect) and the challenges of marriage (now change) vary from hilarious to forgettable. But the production is so full of insouciant good cheer, it's difficult to imagine anyone not finding something to like. So what if by the end of Act Two you've forgotten much of what you saw in Act One? In times like these, a little forgetting can be a good thing, and escapism even better. Performed by HotCity Theatre through December 12 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1527 Washington Avenue. Call 314-241-1517. (DB)

Late Night Catechism Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan's play is back at the Grandel, this time starring veteran Chicago improv performer Mary Beth Burns. A combination of religious instruction, audience interaction and game-show antics, Catechism is a wildly witty and slightly scary encounter with Catholicism. The delight of the show is Burns' constant interplay with the audience. Whisperers are called to order. Latecomers are fined. Everyone must address Sister in full sentences and prizes are awarded for correct answers. With so much depending on audience responses for fuel, Catechism is clearly a different show each night, and Burns seems to revel in that. Her twinkling eyes search the audience for new material even as she works details from earlier stories into running gags. Class is in session for an open-ended run upstairs at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Call 314-534-1111. (DJ)

Tell Me Somethin' Good The Black Rep gets a jump on its 2005 season with yet another revival of this affectionate musical revue that begins in the 1950s and fast-forwards through the decades. By evening's end, girls who begin the evening in pleated skirts (remember the ones with French poodles?) end up looking like drill sergeants. Not that this notion of a musical is interested in making a statement -- the priority here is sound, from Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops" to Barry White to Isaac Hayes, all propelled by a spirited cast of eleven and a five-man band that would be the envy of any prom-dance steering committee. Performed by the St. Louis Black Repertory Company through December 19 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Call 314-534-3810. (DB)

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