Thursday, February 04, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 5, 2016

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:

Shining City
Upstream Theater presents Shining City by Connor McPherson, with live music by Farshid Soltanshahi, through February 14. "In 2003 in a modest Dublin office, a young ex-priest-turned-therapist is consulted by a well-off businessman with a terrible secret. How these characters change, and how they change each other, is the story-a story that will grip you and move you and make you laugh and send shivers down your spine." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times:

My take: Lovers of Irish theatre get not one but two shows by noted Irish playwright Conor McPherson. An site-specific production of The Weir is running at two local pubs through February 11 (see below) and now Upstream has opened Shining City. In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan calls this "a splendid evening of moving theatre."

Held Over:

The Looking Glass Playhouse presents the musical comedy Avenue Q Wednesdays through Sundays through February 7. "The laugh-out-loud musical tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that although the residents seem nice, it's clear that this is not your ordinary neighborhood. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The show is recommended for mature audiences. Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit

My take: I have not seen Looking Glass's production, but I can tell you that the show itself is very funny and very true to life, even though all the characters are puppets manipulated by actors who are visible at all times, in the manner of Japanese bunraku (or Disney's Lion King, for a more Western reference).

Photo: Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the world premiere of the musical Georama through February 7. "In the mid 1800s, John Banvard created the first georama, a three-mile long scrolled painting celebrating the majesty of the Mighty Mississippi. Once a starving sketch artist, his creation catapulted him to a life of luxury and notoriety, but also brought competition and deception that threatened to push his passion to the wayside. Georama illustrates an artist's rise and fall, and the choice between the art he loves and the life he's always longed for." 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 show could use some tweaking here and there (this is the world premiere, after all) but otherwise it's a very entertaining and educational look at an overlooked aspect of late 19th-century showbiz: the moving panorama. Arguably the precursor of motion pictures (since it was, after all, a picture that moved), the moving panorama was eclipsed by photography and then movies, but for a while it was all the rage. And this is the fascinating tale of the man who invented the genre.

Underneath the Lintel
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents the one-character play Underneath the Lintel by Glenn Berger through February 13. "A haunting, beautifully constructed one-person meditation on time and devotion. A returned library book, 113 years overdue with a clue scribbled in the margin and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket take the Dutch librarian on a life-changing quest with an obsession to find its owner. Our protagonist follows multiple clues- tickets to the Peking Opera, a love letter written in Yiddish - on a world-wide search that ultimately decodes the meaning of life. A metaphysical detective story that is funny and fierce, quirky and smart." Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: or call 314-442-3283.

My take: As I noted in my review of the St. Lou Fringe presentation of this play in 2014 (which featured a bravura performance by Pat O'Brien), this is a terrific script. It's a fantasy, a mystery, and a wonderfully human story about the pursuit of someone who is no longer human at all. New Jewish is doing a revised version of the script in which the character is female rather than male, and Glynis Bell turns in a performance which, while very different from Mr. O'Brien's, is no less accomplished. As I write in my review for OnSTL, this .compelling and literate script offers plenty of food for thought, including implications about the nature of God that not everyone will find comfortable, and Ms. Bell's performance is a genuine gem. Don't miss it.

The cast of The Weir
Cocktails and Curtain Calls presents The Weir, the award-winning play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, Monday through Thursday at 8:00pm through February 18. It will be the first local production to utilize the new Members' Project Code, under the auspices of the Actors' Equity Association. All profits from ticket sales go directly to the artists. Performances will take place at McGurk's Irish Pub and Dressel's in the Central West End. For details on performance times and locatsions, visit

My take: We saw McPherson's play many years ago in London, and found it a rattling good ghost story: well written with plausible characters. In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan says that "Cocktails and Curtain Calls company gives us what, to me, must be the definitive production of this beautiful play." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that the company "makes an impressive debut with a grand regaling of Irish playwright Conor McPherson's chilling drama...Setting the production in an actual tavern enhances the atmosphere immensely and, combined with director Kari Ely's careful direction of a top-rate cast, makes The Weir a fanciful tale and a tonic for a deep winter's night."

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