Take V

Henry V would be king

It should go without saying, but we're saying it: Any time is a good time for Shakespeare. As we all learned in high school, the Bard's works have survived for 400 years because he's "universal." Which is the shorthand, "get-a-B-minus-on-the-essay-test" way of saying that the plays of William Shakespeare are always relevant. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, Shakespeare has something profound and beautiful to offer you. So take him up on his universal offer.

St. Louis Shakespeare opens its season with Henry V, and you can bet your bodkin that you'll find some meaty concepts to chew on during the drive home. Put aside your protestations about iambic pentameter and focus on the plot: A young man with a backstory of youthful indulgence and a propensity for imbibing and hanging out with a shady posse now finds himself on the throne of England. So, for reasons various and complicated, he enters into war with a long-time enemy nation. Questions about the king's judgment and his ability to lead abound. Will the war make a king or will it undo him and his nation? See, now you're thinking. Billy, how do you do it?

Henry V unfurls his banner at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square; call 314-534-1111 or visit www.stlshakespeare.org) at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (July 22 through 31), with a 7:30 p.m. performance on July 28. And if you're in the mood for something lighter, St. Louis Shakespeare performs The Compleat Works of Willm Shkspr (Abridged) at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 24. All 37 plays are performed by three actors in a speedy, two-hour-long production. Gadzooks! That's value for your $18 to $22! -- Paul Friswold

Dammit Janet!
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It wasn't all that long ago that you were a virgin. Back then, you wore your virginity with pride, and you were OK with your inexperienced status (aside from the scarlet "v" smeared on your forehead). But then you saw that those who had already lost their virginity had more fun. After all, they knew the right words to shout and the proper times to shout them -- during The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Now that you're, um, deflowered, see the live version of the movie at the Broadway Center of Arts (124-126 East Main Street, Belleville, Illinois) at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (July 21 through August 6). But if that's just too early for you to be out and about dressed as your favorite character from the cult classic, check out the special midnight performances of the Rocky Horror Show each Saturday night. And don't worry about bringing props -- the Broadway Center will sell you a bag of approved props for $5. Tickets cost $8 to $10; call 618-233-0431 for more information. -- Alison Sieloff