Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of November 13, 2015

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

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New This Week:

The 39 Steps
Photo: Joey Rumpell
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents The 39 Steps, based on the classic Hitchcock thriller, through November 14. Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information:

My take: This is one of those shows that is as much about the acting as the script, since all the roles are played by just four performers. It takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to Hitchock's breezy adaptation of John Buchan's classic thriller (one of a series of novels starring Buchan's stalwart Everyman hero, Richard Hannay), turning it into an action comedy and quick-change festival. I saw the Rep's production a few years ago and found it tremendously entertaining. At the Belleville News-Democrat, Lynn Venhaus says that the show "is purely a silly romp, and the slipping into different characters doesn't have to be smooth, which adds to the laughs. The four performers carry it off splendidly." The Chapel is a very intimate performance space, which should add to the impact.

Rapture, Blister, Burn
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild continues their 105th season with Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, November 13-22. "After grad school, Catherine and Gwen chose polar opposite paths. Catherine became a 'rock star' in the academic world and a go-to cable TV commenter, while Gwen built a home with her husband and children. Decades later, unfulfilled in polar opposite ways, each woman covets the other's life, commencing a dangerous game of musical chairs." There will also be a show on Thursday, November 19, at 8 PM. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit

My take: This is a funny and perceptive script about the way so many of us wonder about what might lie down the road not taken, and the cast includes some of our finest local actors. As a member of both the board and the play reading committee at West End, I was a big supporter of this play. I'm glad to see WEPG presenting its local premiere as part of an entire season featuring plays with major roles for women.

Karen Oberlin
The Presenters Dolan presents Karen Oberlin in Secret Love: A Tribute to Doris Day on Friday and Saturday, November 13 and 14, at 8 PM as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival. "Headliner at 54 Below, the Algonquin, Birdland, Feinstein's and Café Carlyle, Karen Oberlin encounters the work of this great American artist." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information:

My take: A big band vocalist who went on to a stellar career in films, Doris Day was also a crusader for the humane treatment of animals. Ms. Oberlin's tribute show, which has been around since 2002 or thereabouts, has garnered rave reviews from publications like Variety, which said that "Oberlin makes sunny musical statements without the help of 'golden wands and mystic charms.' She simply lays the allure at the listener’s feet."

Superman 2050
COCA presents the Theatre Unspeakable production of Superman 2050 Friday and Saturday, November 14 and 15. "Epic story, pocket sized proportions-seven actors share one tine platform (just 3-by-7 feet of space) and upon it an original Superman tale unfolds. Set in a fictional 2050 Metropolis with a remarkable resemblance to Chicago, this production highlight imaginative, resourceful cast member who use only their bodies and voices to create every prop, scene, sound effect and character in a battle between Superman and Lex Luthor." COCA is at 524 Trinity in University City. For more information, call (314) 725-6555 or visit

My take: This looks like great fun, frankly, which is reason enough to recommend it. Superman 2050 is Theatre Unspeakable's signature piece. "Performed at a breakneck pace," writes Zachary Whittenburg in TimeOut Chicago, "Superman 2050 is a passionate argument for high-speed rail in the Midwest, disguised as a fastidiously executed, often hilarious work of physical theater."

Held Over:

I and You
Photo: Jerry Naunhiem, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the drama I and You through November 15. "Anthony is an effortlessly popular "A" student; Caroline is a prickly cynic, homebound with a serious illness. This unlikely duo sits in Caroline's room, trying to cobble together a report on Walt Whitman overnight. As they work and procrastinate, argue and compromise, the teens begin to uncover each other's hidden depths. Full of surprising humor and emotion, I and You explores bravery in the face of an uncertain future and the unique, mysterious connections that bind us." Performances take place in the studio theater at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit

My take: As I write in my review, this play is a kind of dramaturgical magic trick. For most of its 85-minute length it looks like a conventional (but sharply written) buddy story about a pair of teens who find unexpected connections and friendship while working on a school project based on Walt Whitman's visionary poetry collection "Leaves of Grass." And then Ms. Gunderson pulls the rabbit out of the hat and shows us (to quote the Firesign Theatre) that "everything you know is wrong." The fact that she does this in a way that is entirely plausible and consistent with everything that has gone before is a testament to her strength as a dramatist. It's an intelligent script given a flawless presentation.

Act Two Theatre presents the satirical musical Urinetown through November 15. "Winner of three TONY Awards, three Outer Critic's Circle Awards, two Lucille Lortel Awards, and two Obie Awards, Urinetown is a hilarious musical satire of the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, municipal politics and musical theatre itself! Hilariously funny and touchingly honest, Urinetown provides a fresh perspective of one of America's greatest art forms. In a Gotham-like city, a terrible water shortage, caused by a 20-year drought, has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by a single malevolent company that profits by charging admission for one of humanity's most basic needs. Amid the people, a hero decides he's had enough, and plans a revolution to lead them all to freedom!" Performances take place in the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre at 1 St Peters Centre Blvd, St. Peters, MO 63376. For more information:

My take: Here's another recommendation based entirely on the show itself, since I haven't seen Act Two's production. Urinetown takes on a serious subject—water and the way we take it for granted—in an entertaining way. As climate change dries up glaciers and creates water shortages in glacier-fed rivers and lakes, this show's message is, if anything, even more relevant now than when I first saw it many years ago.

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