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Capsule Reviews 

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Bingo Extravaganza! Apparently $90 million is spent on bingo every week, but (until now) no one has ever confused it for theater. This world-premiere offering about a Catholic charity bingo evening, co-authored by Maripat Donovan (of Late Nite Catechism fame), is an interactive ménage of karaoke, sheet cake and one-liners -- all seemingly contrived to delay having to play bingo. The evening is akin to writing a cookbook without any recipes. The three cast members (Barbara Hunt as Sister Rita Mary, Page Hearn and Joe Taylor as two priests) will surely settle into their shtick as they continue to work with audiences. But despite humor that seems cloned from Late Nite Catechism, the show lacks the gentle soul that made Catechism must-see theater. Performed through November 6 at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West PortPlaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $32.50 to $35. Call 314-469-7529. (Dennis Brown)

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum The Rep has thoroughly pummeled a light, charming musical farce into insensibility. Even Stephen Sondheim's breezy songs get played too fast and lose their effect. This hilarious account of a wily Roman slave's efforts to win his freedom has been staged in the "we can write it funnier than the professionals" mode, so expect incessant ad libbing. Only Nat Chandler's vain centurion survives the wreckage. Everyone else may be striving mightily to please the gods of comedy, but the result is godawful. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through November 11 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $13 to $61 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925.(DB)

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