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Friday, May 10, 2019

The Best Things to Do in St. Louis This Week, May 10 to 14

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2019 at 6:46 AM

click to enlarge Madea's going out in style this weekend at the Fox. - COURTESY OF THE FOX THEATRE
  • Madea's going out in style this weekend at the Fox.
Here comes another weekend of interesting events. Don't forget to thank all the mothers, moms and mamma jammas in your life on Sunday.

1. The Certain Thing
Maxine sits in her nursing home, waiting for the moment when her daughter will spring her trap and order the nurse to kill her. She's certain it's coming — the new tax laws that go into effect on January 1 will cut into her daughter's inheritance, and if Maxine croaks before then, her daughter gets a bigger score. The only answer is a counter-scheme: If Maxine can offer her nurse a larger payday to keep her alive, the daughter loses. But is that what's really going on, or is all the drama in the fearful mind of an unwell, elderly woman? Lucas Hnath's play Death Tax is a darkly comic look at the end of life and family squabbles. Mustard Seed Theatre closes its season with the St. Louis premiere of Death Tax. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (May 9 to 19) at the Fontbonne University Fine Arts Theatre (6800 Wydown Boulevard; Tickets are $15 to $35.

2. So Long, Madea
Tyler Perry is done with Madea. After more than a decade on stage and in film, his beloved grandmother with a sharp tongue in her mouth and a gun in her purse is officially retiring. Perry's giving her a golden swan song with Madea's Farewell Play. Perry sticks with what works in his shows, which is exactly what the audience wants. The family (played by Perry regulars Tamela Mann, David Mann and Cassi Davis) will gather for an occasion, a secret or two will be inadvertently revealed and things will turn sour before Madea steps up and talks some sense and calms things down. There will be songs, lots of jokes and a whole lot of love — and in the end, that's what keeps families together. Madea's Farewell Play is performed at 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday (May 10 to 12) at the Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard; Tickets are $48.50 to $128.50, and don't show up late: Madea will call you out in front of God and everybody.

3. Strange Passion
The St. Louis Symphony closes its current season in style, with Music Director Designate Stéphane Denève leading the orchestra through Ravel's lush Shéhérazade and Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. As Ravel's title implies, his piece is inspired by the Arabian Nights, as well as his own fascination with the perceived exoticism of the Middle East. As for Berlioz, his composition was driven by his very real obsession for the Irish actress Harriet Smithson. She never replied to his fervent letters of devotion, and Berlioz channeled what he called "that rage" of unrequited love into a symphony that charted the longing and despair he felt. In it, a man spots the woman he loves at a ball, which is followed by a scene in the country. His pain is too great to bear, and so he poisons himself with opium and floats into a nightmare in which he has killed his beloved and witnesses his own execution. The finale is a witches' sabbath, followed by a descent into hell. (Oddly, Harriet later agreed to meet Berlioz — and marry him! — after hearing the piece, rather than changing her name and moving.) It's a thrilling ride for the listener at any rate. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (May 10 to 12) at Powell Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard; Tickets are $25 to $92.50.

click to enlarge The musical Come From Away is based on a true story about genuine human compassion. - MATTHEW MURPHY
  • The musical Come From Away is based on a true story about genuine human compassion.
5. Almost Golden
Tennessee Williams' plays have been credited with many innovations, from that meme-worthy "Stelllllaa!!!" to the lyrical cannibalism in Suddenly Last Summer. But did a play Williams wrote about St. Louis actually inspire The Golden Girls?

That's the legend, anyway.

"I've been to many Tennessee Williams seminars and panels, and that is what the scholars contend," says Carrie Houk, the founder and artistic director of the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis. With the unspoken acknowledgment that such evidence is far from definitive, Houk continues, "But if Golden Girls was based on the play, it's very loosely based."

The 1979 play, which Houk tapped for this year's festival, is called "A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur," and its Depression-era setting is inspired by Williams' early life in St. Louis. In it four women who live in the same building dream of romance, family and escaping their dreary situation, but will settle for a nice Sunday afternoon in Creve Coeur Park.

For Houk, the magic of "A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur" is not any real or perceived connection to a beloved sitcom, but the play itself. "It's about loneliness and the need for human connections," she explains. "It's a comedy, but it has a lot of vulnerability. It could just be wisecrack, wisecrack, wisecrack, but there's this other element, of the characters needing love. All four women are different, but they need each other."

Like many of Williams' short plays, the condensed nature of the one-act format heightens the impact of his poetic flourishes, and also allows him the luxury of a happy ending. "Here are these women on a flat on Enright Avenue, and they dream about flying away," marvels Houk. "Even if there's just one afternoon at Creve Coeur Park, there's a respite."

"A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur" will be directed by Kari Ely and star Maggie Wininger, Kelley Weber, Julie Layton and Ellie Schwetye, which experienced theatergoers will recognize as quite a potent lineup. It will be performed at 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (May 11 to 19) in the Grand Hall at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square;, and tickets are $25 to $45.

The festival's main stage production, The Night of the Iguana, is performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (May 9 to 19) in the Grandel; tickets are $25 to $45. Additionally, New Orleans native Bryan Batt will star in his one-man show "Dear Mr. Williams," which is a coming-of-age story about a gay artist, spiced by sex and alcohol; the piece is inspired by some of Williams' lesser-known stories and love for his adopted hometown (not St. Louis). Batt will perform his show 8:30 p.m. Friday and 3:30 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday (May 10 and 11) at the Curtain Call Lounge (527 North Grand Boulevard). Tickets are $25 to $55.

6. The Perfect Gift
If you haven't found that gift for Mother's Day (it's Sunday, May 12, this year), it's not too late to give her what she really wants. What could be better than a day spent with her favorite child at the Laumeier Art Fair? A day spent outdoors, wandering among the numerous artists and their work in a lovely park, complete with food and drinks as needed? That's better than another necktie (some moms wear ties, deal with it). Maybe she'll find a nice hand-made gift there you could buy her, or perhaps you'll see a few somethings that would make good gifts for you — there's a lot of art on display, after all. The fair takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday (May 10 to 12) at Laumeier Sculpture Park (12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; Admission is $10, but free for members.

7. From Nowhere to Newfoundland
After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, air traffic was shut down. The planes in the air needed some place out of harm's way to land. Newfoundland is an island off the east coast of Canada, and it is definitely out of the way. When more than a dozen planes were diverted there and 7,000 confused, weary passengers disembarked, the population of the town instantly doubled. The locals had no problem welcoming strangers into their homes, feeding them and offering them comfort and a shoulder to cry on as the travelers processed what had happened. Newfoundlanders don't need a reason to sing, and with so many guests in town, the instruments came out. As the songs started, friendships were forged in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland. Irene Sankoff and David Hein's musical Come From Away is inspired by the true story of small-town kindness in the aftermath of fear and terror. The musical is performed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday (May 14 to 26) at the Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard; Tickets are $35 to $115.
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