Hamlet This is Hydeware Theatre's sixth summer of "Hydeware in the Park," and this time they eschew the comic vein, grabbing the Bard by the throat with a lean Hamlet. While it sometimes plays like "Hamlet's Greatest Hits," director and line trimmer Richard Strelinger Jr. has fashioned a 90-minute tragedy that rings true in its portrait of betrayal and grief. Strelinger's unnecessary concept that Claudius suffers hysterical blindness doesn't hurt the story, and Luke Lindberg's portrayal of the protagonist is impetuous and genuine. The only real missteps are Ken Haller's fey performance as Polonius and the scorn he suffers at the hands of his children, which makes their reactions to his death hard to buy. The stage a shallow set of steps and columns is used well by the ten-member ensemble. Through September 17 at the Whitaker Theatre, 4256 Magnolia Avenue (in Tower Grove Park, behind the tennis courts). Admission is free (donations accepted). Call 314-368-7306 or visit www.hydewaretheatre.org. Deanna Jent
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot Reviewed in this issue.
Menopause The Musical This sassy musical revue parodies songs of the '60s and '70s, focusing on issues of aging and hormone imbalance (to give you an idea: A disco medley includes "Night Sweating" and "Stayin' Awake"). Sandra Benton is a powerhouse singer whose Tina Turner brings down the house. Brooke Davis scores with "Puff the Magic Dragon" and Lee Anne Mathews delivers a sultry "Tropical Hot Flash," while Rosemary Watts has fun with the raciest number, a tribute to self-love. The only problem with music director Joe Dreyer's slick 90 minutes is that it's too loud. 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 $44.50. Call 314-469-7529 or visit www.playhouseatwestport.com. (DJ)