Thursday, April 30, 2015

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of May 1, 2015

s always, the choices are purely my personal opinion. Take with a grain (or a shaker) of salt.

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New This Week:

Kevin Spirtas
The Gateway Men's Chorus presents Cabaret Risque on Saturday, May 2, at 8:30 p.m., preceded by a cocktail hour at 7 p.m. The show will star St. Louis native Kevin Spirtas, star of television's Days Of Our Lives, Jim Brickman's PBS special Love Songs and Lullabies, and Broadway's A Chorus Line, Hairspray, and The Boy From Oz. Ken Haller is master of ceremonies and guest performer for the event, with music direction by Al Fischer. Proceeds benefit the Gateway Men's Chorus. The show takes place Rialto Ballroom on the fourth floor of the Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive in Grand Center. For more information: gatewaymenschorus.org.

My take: I sang in last year's Cabaret Risque and I have to say it was a heck of a good time for a good cause. This year, Kevin Spirtas has an impressive track record and Ken Haller is one of St. Louis' cabaret treasures. Another reason to attend: this will be the last appearance in town of outgoing GMC musical director Al Fischer, who had to find another job out of town when the fine people at the Catholic Archdiocese fired him from his teaching job for the high crime of marrying his partner Charlie Robin in New York. And if that's not enough, consider that your ticket includes a nice selection of food and drink along with the chance to bid on a variety of collectibles at a silent auction. Last year I walked away with a box full of CDs and DVDS by performers who had appeared at the Edison Theatre's Ovations! Series (which Mr. Robin headed until its demise at the end of this season). Just saying.

Clayton Community Theatre presents Shakespeare's Macbeth Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, through May 3. Performances take place at the Washington University South Campus Theatre. For more information, call 314-721-9228 or visit placeseveryone.org.

My take: I haven't seen this production, but this play has always been one of my favorites. For a Shakespearean tragedy, it's remarkably compact and its protagonist goes downhill rather quickly as a result of a monstrous case of hubris. So I'm always willing to recommend a production of it.

Once on This Island
Photo: Stewart Goldstein
The Black Rep presents the musical Once on This Island through May 3. "Once on this Island is a warm fairy tale for children of all ages, told with breezy Caribbean rhythms. A young peasant girl in the French Antilles uses the power of love to bring together people of very different social classes." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

My take: Once on This Island is yet another wonderfully engaging musical from the peerless team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, whose other hits include Ragtime and the charming Seussical. Writing for Lade News, Mark Bretz describes this as "an enchanting, mystical excursion into the fantastical and uplifting, accentuated by graceful dancing, spirited singing and a winning way that makes this one-act musical a joyful exercise." Chris Gibson at Broadwayworld.com says the show " is simply delightful, and filled with a slew of catchy Caribbean-influenced songs that make up the score. I think it's truly a crime that this under-appreciated presentation is coming to a close this weekend, and I challenge anyone reading this review to get out and see it. You will certainly not be disappointed, in fact, you'll probably fall in love with it in the same way that my son and I did." "Nuff said.

KTK Productions presents the farce Sex, Please, We're Sixtythrough May 3. "Mrs. Stancliffe's Rose Cottage Bed and Breakfast has been successful for many years. Her guests (nearly all women) return year after year. Her next door neighbor, the elderly, silver-tongued, Bud "The Stud" Davis believes they come to spend time with him in romantic liaisons. The prim and proper Mrs. Stancliffe steadfastly denies this, but really doesn't do anything to prevent it. She reluctantly accepts the fact that "Bud the Stud" is, in fact, good for business. Her other neighbor and would-be suitor Henry Mitchell is a retired chemist who has developed a blue pill called "Venusia," after Venus the goddess of love, to increase the libido of menopausal women. The pill has not been tested. Add to the guest list three older women: Victoria Ambrose, a romance novelist whose personal life seems to be lacking in romance; Hillary Hudson a friend of Henry's who has agreed to test the Venusia: and Charmaine Beauregard, a "Southern Belle" whose libido does not need to be increased! Bud gets his hands on some of the Venusia pills and the fun begins, as he attempts to entertain all three women! The women mix up Bud's Viagra pills with the Venusia, and we soon discover that it has a strange effect on men: it gives them all the symptoms of menopausal women, complete with hot flashes, mood swings, weeping and irritability! When the mayhem settles down, all the women find their lives moving in new and surprising directions." Performances take place at Southampton Presbyterian Church, 4716 Macklind. For more information: kurtainkall.org or call 314-351-8984.

My take: While nobody would mistake this sex farce for Great Art, KTK is apparently insuring that both the cast and audience have fun with it. "The dialogue is clever and filled with current references," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "...and the lively, vibrant cast gives the stereotypical senior characters a needed boost of energy...KTK Productions' current show is a delightfully light piece, with a well-constructed story and likeable characters, though it suffers from predictability and clich├ęs. Thankfully, the cast is game for the humor and delightfully over-exaggerated, ensuring that 'Sex, Please, We're 60'..keeps audiences laughing."

Held Over:

Art
Photo: John Lamb
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Yasmina Reza's comedy Art through May 3 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. "How much would you pay for a white painting? Would it matter who the painter was? Would it be art? One of Marc's best friends, Serge, has just bought a very expensive painting. It's about five feet by four, all white with white diagonal lines. To Marc, the painting is a joke, but Serge insists Marc doesn't have the proper standard to judge the work. Another friend, Ivan, though burdened by his own problems, allows himself to be pulled into this disagreement. Eager to please, Ivan tells Serge he likes the painting. Lines are drawn and these old friends square off over the canvas, using it as an excuse to relentlessly batter one another over various failures. As their arguments become less theoretical and more personal, they border on destroying their friendships. At the breaking point, Serge hands Marc a felt tip pen and dares him: "Go on." This is where the friendship is finally tested, and the aftermath of action, and its reaction, affirms the power of those bonds." For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

My take: Playwright Reza seems to specialize in scripts about Men Behaving Badly. Art is probably her best known and most popular play, and it looks like STLAS is doing well by it. The Snoop's Theatre Thoughts blog says that "the cast here is uniformly excellent, working together well and portraying a convincing combative friendship," while over at KDHX Tina Farmer says "[the] dialogue is crisp and artfully crafted, with lots of interesting turns but no real surprises. It's delightful to listen to the conversations of the three characters, Marc, Serge and Yvan, even though none of them are particularly sympathetic or more than marginally likable. John Pierson, Drew Battles and Larry Dell comfortably inhabit their characters and skillfully glide through dialogue that is at times complex and tongue twisting."

An Invitation Out
Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents An Invitation Out by Shaulee Cook through May 3. "In this world-premiere comedy of manners, a young man searches for "truth" while living in virtual reality and explores the "reality" of life offline." Performances take place at the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd. For more information, call (314) 719-8060 or visit the web site at www.mustardseedtheatre.com.

My take: Mustard Seed specializes in plays that deal with difficult ethical issues. In this case, they've chosen to take on the question of identity in a virtual world where a screen name might mean everything or nothing, and they're doing it in a way that pays homage to Oscar Wilde. In his review for KDHX, Robert Nickles says the plays characters "must make choices about identity within the confines of complex social expectations. Like any comedy of manners, the script hides profound truths behind the silliness and superficiality of human conventions. This visually stunning production combines fun and philosophy to produce a thoroughly entertaining social critique." At stltoday.com, Judy Newmark says the show is "is big in every way: the size of its cast, the characters’ outlandish costumes, the generous imagination that playwright Shualee Cook poured into her vision of a neo-Victorian future."

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