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Capsule Reviews 

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Adult Entertainment Reviewed in this issue.

Bent When it was first staged in the '70s, Martin Sherman's unlikely love story was one of those rare dramas that forced viewers to open their eyes to unknown horror. The persecution of Jews in Hitler's Germany was well documented, but few people knew much about the persecution of homosexuals, or about the pink triangle they were forced to wear at concentration camps. Two decades later the play's newness has worn off, yet it still retains moments of ineffable power. The Act Two exchanges between Kevin Nickolai as Max, a homosexual who pretends to be Jewish in order to survive, and Scott McMaster as the object of his forbidden love, are compelling and poignant. Performed by St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley through April 23 at the Terry Fischer Theatre, 3400 Pershall Road, Ferguson. Tickets are free. Call 314-513-4488. (Dennis Brown)

Big River Reviewed in this issue.

Defending the Caveman A sitcom-mentality stage play "experience" without the pesky problems of character relationships or plot. As a play, it's pretty good stand-up comedy -- especially for married couples who embody stereotypic gender roles. The solo character is a married guy trying to defend men from disdain. "It's not that guys are assholes," he explains. "They just come from a different culture." Creator Rob Becker romanticizes cavefolk as a model society: They respected and honored gender differences. Nobody called the cavewoman a bitch, nobody called the caveman an asshole (perhaps because language hadn't yet been invented?). Unfortunately the material doesn't really build. Cody Lyman (from Chicago's Second City) plays the Caveman. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $35-$39.50. Call 314-469-7529. (Deanna Jent)

The School for Scandal You say you want to get your mind off the Michael Jackson trial and focus on some real gossipmongering? This is the play for you. The older Richard Brinsley Sheridan's eighteenth-century comedy gets, the more contemporary it becomes. Instead of Lady Sneerwell, think Joan Rivers; instead of Sir Benjamin Backbite, imagine Bill O'Reilly. Director Ted Gregory has imposed a fun period manner on his mostly student cast. As Sir Oliver Surface, freshly returned from India with a plan to test his nephews' characters, Michael B. Perkins' delight in being onstage is infectious. Anthony Wininger finds the pathos in old Sir Peter Teazle, and Margeau Baue Steinau is so effective as Lady Sneerwell you can't help wishing she had a larger role. Performed by Lindenwood University Department of Theatre through April 23 at the Jelkyl Theatre, Roemer Hall, 209 S. Kingshighway, St. Charles. Tickets are $10 ($8 for seniors, $6 for children). Call 636-949-4878. (DB)

Trojan Women A child is thrown from a tower to his death. A woman has her throat slit. A mother watches her children die one by one. Seneca's version of the Greek myth highlights the horror faced by innocent victims of war; in David Slavitt's translation, the men in charge mouth platitudes that sound eerily familiar ("Ours is a stabilizing force"). Anchored by Katie Consamus as Andromache and Katy Vogt as Hecuba, the student cast at Saint Louis University is vocally and physically strong, surrounded by Mark Wilson's outstanding scenic and lighting design. Co-directors Heidi Winters Vogel and Tom Martin create evocative pictures of women's solidarity and draw thought-provoking parallels between the Trojan conflict and the war in Iraq. It's still Greek tragedy, though, which means an hour and 40 minutes of mostly monologues; even when they're delivered as well as they are here, the cumulative effect is numbing. Presented by Saint Louis University Theatre through April 23 at the University Theatre (in Xavier Hall), 3733 West Pine Mall. Tickets are $9 ($6 for students, $8 for seniors). Call 314-977-3327. (DJ)

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