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Photo: John Lamb
My take: Honesty compels me to point out that I am on the board at West End. That said, this production would be worth recommending no matter where it was being done. The script treats its characters with honesty and respect and asks hard questions about the choices we make in life. "A lyrical coming-of-age work," writes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat, “'The Cockfighter' is tinged with hope and regret, imbued with a captivating sense of place, and enhanced by heartfelt performances." In his review for KDHX, Robert Nickles says the show "goes for the heart," and so it does. The script is not without its issues, but this generally strong production carries it well and features some first-rate performances.
|The Rime of the Ancient Mariner|
My take: Coleridge probably never intended his poem for theatrical use and, while it was required reading when I was young (back during the Roman Empire), it has probably receded from popular consciousness over the decades. How many people today would even recognize the image of having an albatross around one's neck—much less know where it came from? Still, as Judy Newmak writes in her review for the Post-Dispatch, "he avant-garde stage version playing at Upstream Theater feels completely fresh, a “dream theater” piece that blends art forms old and new. Adapted and directed by Patrick Siler, the hourlong piece uses poetry, drama, music and modern dance to wind through a story that — like a dream — coheres eloquently without constraint of logic." "The vivid imagery of this haunting sea voyage is orchestrated sublimely by Patrick Siler," says the St. Louis Theater Snob, "who adapted and directed the piece, with Jerry Vogel at the helm as the nameless title character. Vogel's commanding presence is palpable -- as heavy in grief, anxiety and remorse as he is buoyant in joy and realization." Upstream in unafraid to take chances and it looks like this is a winner.
Photo: Whitney Curtis
My take: When this play was still in development last fall, it was presented as part of the Hotchner Festival at Washington University. Back then, KDHX critic Steve Callahan was very taken with it. "It's a magical and engaging play," he wrote. "And it is going to receive a full production next April. I recommend it."
|The Mystery of Edwin Drood|
Photo: John Lamb
My take: This clever show-within-a-show musical has always been a favorite of mine. If your only exposure to Holmes' music has been his big tacky hit "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," you're in for a surprise with this show with it's clever mock-Victorian score and witty lyrics. There's a good reason why it won the 1985 Tony Award. Reviews have described it as a rowdy good time. Typical is Mark Bretz's review at Ladue News, which describes this as "a clever, ingratiating production that is filled with verve and panache."