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St. Louis Stage Capsules 

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene

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The Good Times Are Killing Me It's a curious play that requires seventeen actors to present what is essentially a monologue. The success of Lynda Barry's nostalgic evocation about listening to rock & roll while growing up white during the 1960s civil-rights movement relies totally on the charms of the actress who portrays twelve-year-old Edna (Colleen Backer), for she is both our protagonist and our narrator. Even as we submit to her endearingly self-conscious innocence, we vaguely sense that we are allowing ourselves to be manipulated by a deft comedian. There are other fine performances here (especially from Briston Ashe as Emma's first black friend and from Margery Handy and Kirsten Wylder as the two mothers), and director Deanna Jent strives mightily to instill this feel-good mood piece with occasional bursts of raucous energy. But the script loses steam halfway through Act Two, owing mostly to the episodic nature of the surface-thin material. What we're left with — and what makes the evening a delight — is Backer's pitch-perfect portrayal. Performed by Mustard Seed Theatre through May 3 at the Fontbonne University Fine Arts Center Theatre, 6800 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton. Tickets are $20 to $30 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-719-8060 or visit — Dennis Brown

Quilters Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek's collection of musical vignettes about the frontier women of the Manifest Destiny era is pieced together loosely like the patterned blocks of the quilters themselves. Trouble is, the final product sticks around no longer than the time it takes to exit the theater. There are some good performances, notably Jacqueline Thompson as the daughter of a Baptist preacher who humorously relates the story of her father's love of a nice red bolt of fabric. But the music is mostly interchangeable, and the scenes never delve deeply enough to forge a connection. It's like glancing through someone else's memory book: briefly fascinating, but eventually you keep looking for a chance to change the subject. Presented by Avalon Theatre Company through April 26 at the Missouri History Museum, Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue (in Forest Park). Tickets are $25 ($20 for students and seniors). Call 314-351-6482 or visit — Paul Friswold

Woyzeck Reviewed in this issue.

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