Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Jan 24, 2007 at 4:00 am
Ain't Misbehavin' Five singers, ten hands and fifty fingers spread rhythm around in abundance in this modestly ambitious tribute to prodigious songwriter Thomas "Fats" Waller. Drummond Crenshaw, Anita Jackson, Julia Nixon, Teressa Renee' Williams and especially the satin-smooth J. Samuel Davis bring energy and affection to Waller standards from the 1920s and '30s, including "The Joint Is Jumpin'," "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Keeping Out of Mischief Now." This revue starts out as a merry snapshot of the past, but by the time the ensemble sings the haunting "Black and Blue," the evening has become suffused with pain. Not even a toe-tapping finale can disguise the searing, unhealed scar at the show's spine. Performed by the Black Rep through February 4 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $40. Call 314-534-3810.
— Dennis Brown

Don Juan in Hell You say that nearly three hours of Heartbreak House isn't enough? You crave still more George Bernard Shaw? This is your lucky week. Don Juan, the Devil and the Statue from Mozart's Don Giovanni are waxing on (and on) in Hell, that tempting locale where you have "nothing to do but amuse yourself." This Act III extract from Shaw's 1905 comedy Man and Superman is often performed as a staged reading. But director Steve Callahan ambitiously puts the piece on its feet. Jason Meyers' Don Juan, Robert Beck's Devil and Richard Lewis' Statue all work like Trojans to not be drowned in a Niagara of dialogue. But it's Lilith Baker's Dona Ana — or, more precisely, the artful tattoo that caresses Dona Ana's back — that proves more intriguing than any polemic. Shaw would be irked to see how easily his verbiage is upstaged by the visual. Performed by the West End Players Guild through January 28 at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union Boulevard. Tickets are $12 to $15. Call 314-367-0025.

The Lion in Winter It's 1183 and King Henry II is having a problem reining in his three pesky sons, all of whom imagine themselves as the heir apparent and are growing impatient with Dad's continued good health. James Goldman's oh-so-clever comedy has always been a crowd pleaser. The question is: Why? Garrett Bergfeld's Henry owes more than a little to Peter O'Toole's film performance, and he instills the role with much-needed gusto. But so what? The tacked-on coda (written locally?), historically interesting though it may be, merely confirms the emptiness of the preceding two and a half hours. Performed by the Kirkwood Theatre Guild through January 27 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $15. Call 314-821-9956 ext. 1.