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Capsule Reviews 

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

The Fever and Man with a Shotgun Why do people want to hurt each other? The Fever, Wallace Shawn's oh-so-serious rumination about the fine line between the world's haves and have-nots shares the same virtuoso verbosity as My Dinner with Andre, the 1981 movie that featured Shawn as both co-author and co-star. This one-man venture into Spalding Gray-land, first performed by Shawn himself, makes essentially the same points about the inexplicable horrors of political torture when performed by a woman (Ember Hyde). Either way, 85 minutes of essentially humorless self-recrimination is a lot to absorb. By contrast, Man with a Shotgun, a tight, 25-minute one-act solo turn about the ritual of violence, which is devoured with relish by Brian Hyde, is both substantive and entertaining. St. Louis playwright Byron Kerman doesn't take himself as seriously as Shawn, but he has a clearer grasp of theater — one of whose precepts is: When talking about the perils of death, don't talk the audience to death. The Fever is performed by Hydeware Theatre November 17-19 at 8 p.m. at the Tin Ceiling, 3149 Cherokee Street. Man with a Shotgun follows at 10 p.m. on November 18-19. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors). Call 314-534-1111 or visit hydewaretheatre.org. (Dennis Brown)

Side Show Think Elephant Man meets Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Production Numbers — er, Dreamcoat. The short-lived Broadway musical Side Show takes on real-life conjoined twins (the Hilton sisters) as its subject matter, exploring archetypal themes in songs such as "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" Linda Ryan and Kay Love are fantastic as the twins, lovable as they soft-shoe in their production numbers, heartbreaking as they reveal their hopes and fears. The typical "love triangle" becomes a "love pentagon" as the twins struggle to find genuine love in a world that sees them only as freaks. J. Reese is a standout as Jake, igniting the show with his energetic "The Devil You Know." Kudos to Curtain Call Repertory Theatre for taking on this difficult, rarely produced show — it's a treat just to see it staged, and the Carousel House setting adds an appropriate carnival flair. Through November 20 at Faust Park, 15185 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield. Tickets are $13 ($15 at the door). Call 636-346-7707. (Deanna Jent)

Two Rooms A hostage in the Middle East locked in a barren room. His wife waiting for news. Three years pass as the government assures her that they are doing all they can. Time becomes both meaningless and unendurable. Lee Blessing's episodic drama traces the realities, daydreams and nightmares of this couple, effectively portrayed by Richard Enriquez and Bridget Reilly. The solid cast includes Ray Shea as a well-intentioned liberal reporter and Suzanne Greenwald as the by-the-book government agent. Shea and Reilly's scenes are taut, filled with agonizing tension. Enriquez imbues his imaginary letters home with believable hope. Greenwald is almost sympathetic in a script clearly slanted against her character. This West End Players Guild production is a strong cup of black coffee, designed to open sleepy eyes to the realities of world politics. Scary how this fifteen-year-old work rings so true today. Through November 20 at Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 N. Union Boulevard. Tickets are $10. Call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayersguild.org. (DJ)

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