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St. Louis Stage Capsules 

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene.

Altar Boyz If Hedwig and the Angry Inch can make hay out of a tawdry rock concert, why not an evening that spoofs a touring Christian boy band? This current Off Ramp version has been slickly staged by the show's original director, Stafford Arima. The "concert" itself is gently (if predictably) innocuous. The five-youth group is made up of stereotypes: a recovering alcoholic, the obligatory gay, the token Jew. Their "God is great" pop musical numbers are abetted by lots of flashy lighting and high-energy choreography that asks the burning question: How many ways can you improvise a cross? The willing audience is encouraged to clap along, and there's even the occasional amusing line. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through October 7 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $15 to $45 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit — Dennis Brown

Boesman and Lena With dialogue as spare and dusty as the desert of South Africa, Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena is a tough play to weather, but the rewards of doing so are many. Director Ron Himes has captured a palpable desolation in this Black Rep; he generates much of that atmosphere as Boesman, a hardscrabble South African who traipses back and forth across the country in an effort to remain one step ahead of destruction. Linda Kennedy plays his companion, Lena, with a desperate air of blind optimism punctuated by brief moments of lucid pragmatism. Over the course of one bleak night, Boesman and Lena confront each other with their failures, their losses and ultimately, the truth about who they really are inside the battered bodies that carry them across the world. Through September 30 at the Orthwein Theatre, 101 North Warson Road, Ladue (on the campus of Mary Institute and Country Day School). Tickets are $35 ($30 for students and seniors; $15 rush seats available for students 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810 or visit — Paul Friswold

Crazy for You For much of Act One, this lavish paean to the songs of George and Ira Gershwin is a glory to behold. It glides, swirls, tap dances and pick-axes its way from standard to standard, climaxing with the exuberant "I've Got Rhythm." The lithe dancers do wonderful work. David Elder makes for a charming leading man, and Julie Tolivar's rambunctious leading lady is equally appealing. Then Act Two arrives. It's a slow starter in every Crazy for You. But in this Stages St. Louis production, it never starts at all. How can one act be so pleasantly polished; the next, an endurance contest? Whatever the reason, by the time the umpteenth Gershwin song receives its umpteenth reprise nearly three hours after the evening began, you might find yourself wishing (albeit briefly) that George and Ira had never laid eyes on a piano. If only they'd taken their Uncle Leo's advice and opened a kosher deli. Produced by Stages St. Louis through October 7 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $46 ($43 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-821-2407 or visit (DB)

Hedda Gabler Director Eric Little has moved this account of Henrik Ibsen's celebrated pistol-packin' mama from nineteenth-century Norway to an American college town in 1955. Now the narcissistic Hedda and her myopic academician husband George come off as precursors to George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But most of the actors seem oblivious to both century and continent; this production might be playing out anywhere or nowhere. Performed by Echo Theatre through September 30 at the Johnson Hall Theater in the Third Baptist Church, 620 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students or two for $20; $18 for seniors). Call 314-225-4329 or visit (DB)

The History Boys Alan Bennett's wildly popular, critically acclaimed, award-winning story about eight British students who must prepare for college entrance exams makes its eagerly awaited local stage debut. It's a charming piece indeed, one that reminds us of how much we've missed if our schooling did not include free-thinking professors who fiddled with our genitals. Are we really supposed to relate to students who ask their teachers for blowjobs? Apparently so, because the play is a smash hit wherever it's done, and is sure to be one here, too. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through September 30 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $14 to $63 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit (DB)

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change An intrepid group of local producers is trying to make a long-run go of this sketch-y evening that chronicles, spoofs and sometimes even satirizes mating rituals from the first date to the final farewell. They just might pull it off, because — as staged with verve by St. Louis theater veteran Bobby Miller — this musical revue is rambunctious, breezy and just ribald enough to keep viewers chortling from beginning to end. An ideally suited ensemble (Michael Jokerst, Alan Knoll, Chopper Leifheit, Lee Anne Mathews, Laurie McConnell, Rosemary Watts) cavorts through a fast-paced evening of mostly humorous skits that allow everyone a chance to shine. Sitting through the show is like chewing a wad of bubble gum: After a few hours it begins to lose its flavor. But the sheer act of watching so many people have so much fun — both onstage and in the audience — bespeaks success. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza, 635 Westport Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $41 to $46. Call 314-469-7529. (DB)

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