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Thursday, June 25, 2009

By the Boards: Dennis Brown on the STL Theater Scene June 26-30

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 8:03 AM

After more than a month of robust activity, it feels as if the local theater scene is about to take a brief hiatus. Blues in the Night at the Black Rep and Little Shop of Horrors at Stages are both closing this weekend. After this weekend The Lady from Dubuque returns to that netherworld where Edward Albee's heroines hang out between engagements. The much-lauded Opera Theatre season winds down on Saturday.

Meanwhile Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings at Act, Inc., charming though it is, takes a breather this weekend so that the little-known Heroes, the second play in this summer's Act, Inc. season, can join the repertory.

click to enlarge WWW.ACTINC.BIZ

By way of background, Heroes is a French play that has been adapted into English by the indefatigable Tom (is there no stopping this man?) Stoppard. The story plays out in a home for retired veterans of World War I. The original London production in 2005 featured John Hurt, Richard Griffiths (who later found success on Broadway in The History Boys and this past season returned to Broadway in Equus opposite that Harry Potter boy) and Ken Stott.

Stott is the name you might not know. He is a marvelously skillful film actor from Scotland who has not bothered to become a star in America - which is our loss, not his. But (and granted, this has nothing to do with seeing Heroes at Act, Inc. this weekend or again July 10-12) if you'd like to make his acquaintance, you should track down the DVDs of Jim Sheridan's The Boxer, in which Stott plays Daniel Day-Lewis' punchy, alcoholic trainer, and David Yates' The Girl in the Café, where Stott is England's Chancellor of the Exchequer. The two roles could not be more disparate, yet Stott is natural and memorable in both.

Also this weekend Avalon Theatre opens a three-week run of William Luce's one-man play Barrymore, with John Contini enacting the Great Profile. The original Broadway production in 1997 (was it really twelve years ago?) proved a grand triumph for Christopher Plummer, who writes glowingly of the experience in his expansive new memoir, In Spite of Myself.

And if attending Barrymore impels you to want to see the real thing, there's still a smattering of the Barrymore aura in the classic MGM films Grand Hotel and Dinner at Eight. He's at his most hilarious in Twentieth Century and the little-known Midnight, a 1939 screwball comedy written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, now available on DVD and waiting to be discovered.

Finally, a reminder that Annie at the Muny has an extended run. It continues through next Tuesday night. Twelve-year-old Abigail Isom brings a sense of conviction and simple truth to the title role. Conviction and truth are not qualities we associate with what is essentially a cartoon musical, and they help to make this Annie more refreshing than it's seemed in a long time.

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