St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene

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St. Louis Stage Capsules

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Master Class Reviewed in this issue.

Equus Why did Alan Strang take a spike and blind six horses? Peter Shaffer's mystery-drama about a boy's quest for a personal god and the psychiatrist who must stifle that quest receives a thoughtful, at times breathlessly exhilarating, production from HotCity Theatre. Director Doug Finlayson exploits all the tools at his disposal to weave an evening of encompassing theatricality: mime, chanting, evocative lighting from Michael Sullivan, a haunting sound design from Robin Weatherall, an ingenious unit set by John Armstrong that evokes a hospital, a stable and a Greek temple. Finlayson has made exciting use of the limited space in the Kranzberg's black-box theater. As the damaged youth whose self-styled religion goes against society's norms, Drew Pannebecker's modulated performance peaks at all the key times. But Shaffer's script — which seemed so exciting when it debuted on Broadway in the mid-1970s — now feels wildly overwritten. Dysart, the child psychiatrist who is himself damaged goods, suffers from diarrhea of the mouth. James Anthony does an astonishingly adept job of sorting through the verbiage. In an admirable performance of utter simplicity, he knows what thoughts to emphasize and when to just plow ahead. As impressive as Anthony is, we still might wish that Alan, rather than scratching out the eyes of six horses, had used that spike to scratch out six pages of text. Through September 25 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors; $15 for students, five minutes before showtime; Saturday matinee $5 off). Call 314-289-4063 or visit — Dennis Brown

Shrek the Musical It is to be expected that DreamWorks' first foray into mounting a live stage musical would be filled with splendorous visual effects. But the show also is filled with smaller inventive touches. And some of the songs are downright wacky. The clever "I Think I've Got You Beat," a self-pitying parody sung by Shrek and Princess Fiona, is actually a sly tribute to Sonny and Cher ("I Got You Babe"). Author-lyricist David Lindsay-Abaire, whose entire career has been an exploration of the offbeat, brings his keen understanding of the odd to the already-amusing 1991 Shrek screenplay. Lindsay-Abaire found an ideal collaborator in versatile composer Jeanine Tesori. Performed through September 26 at the Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $26 to $68. Call 314-534-1678 or visit (DB)

You Can't Take It With You The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting a winning production of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's 1936 comedy about an anarchic Depression-era family whose philosophy of life is to do whatever makes you happy. This staging should make viewers very happy indeed. The plot is yet another variation on Romeo and Juliet, but the shenanigans that ultimately unite the estranged young lovers are so skillfully crafted that halfway through the evening the play kicks into a rare kind of theatrical cruise control. There's no stopping the fun. Performed through October 3 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $15 to $70. Call 314-968-4925 or visit (DB)

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