Friday, February 12, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 12, 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:

As You Like It
Photo: Joey Rumpell
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Shakespeare's As You Like It Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. through February 13. " SATE adapts Shakespeare's beloved pastoral comedy As You Like It to Depression-era Ozark forests, complete with original, Old-Time tunes played live by the cast and Jason Scroggins, of the local band, The Foggy Memory Boys. Old-Time music features playing styles that pre-date bluegrass, emerging from the string band tradition stretching back to the early years of United States history. SATE's adaptation takes place in 1929 when the Union Electric Company began to buy-out farm property to create what is now the Lake of the Ozarks. Duke Senior, one of the usurped land owners now lives in the forest with her farm hands. Duke's daughter, Rosalind, has determined to find and live with her mother in the forest along with her cousin, Celia and friend, Touchstone. Along the way and disguised as a boy, leading to her mistaken identity as Ganymede, she meets and falls in love with Orlando, another usurped land-owner. Learning the Ozark ways of life from the locals, Rosalind, Orlando, Celia, and Duke find love, music, and a home among the trees of an Ozark forest." Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information:

My take: Directors never seem to tire of comin up with new twists on The Bard's plays, especially the comedies. Those approaches don't always work, but apparently moving the rustic action to the Ozark hills hits the right note (so to speak). "Director Ellie Schwetye focuses on the romance in this adaptation," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "complementing it with authentic bluegrass melodies by Jason Scroggins that transform many of the play's best known speeches and poems. The entire cast sings, stomps, and plays a variety of instruments throughout the fast-paced show, keeping the audience enthralled and eagerly awaiting the next scene."

Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents the comedy Eleemosynary Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 21. "Both funny and poignant, this play examines the subtle and often perilous relationship between three remarkable women: a young girl, her mother, and her grandmother. Artie abandons her daughter Echo to be raised by Echo's grandmother, Dorothea. But when Dorothea's health begins to fail, can Artie and Echo move beyond the superficiality of words and begin to build a deeper relationship?" 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

My take: Les Blessing's play has been around for a while now and seems to be a perinneal favorite for small theatre companies. Writing for Stage Door St. Louis, Steve Allen says that he's seen several productions and "the current presentation at Mustard Seed Theatre is definitely one of the best. Three powerful actresses manage to energize us, empower us and tug at the old heart strings." At KDHX, Shannon Cothran calls it "solid and moving" while Mark Bretz at Ladue News says it's "a gentle and caring excursion into the magical and sometimes hazardous reaches of the mind and its mysterious powers."

I'll Be Back Before Midnight
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the thriller I'll Be Back Before Midnight Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through February 20. "Having suffered a nervous breakdown, Jan retreats with her husband to an old, country farmhouse where the owner delights in telling gruesome ghost stories. Before long, eerie sounds and visions are tormenting Jan. Is she suffering another breakdown or is someone trying to drive her mad?" Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit or call 314-865-1995.

My take: What could be better for a cold winter night than a tidy thriller? At KDHX, Tina Farmer says this one is "filled with enough twists and dark comedy to hold the attention of even the most jaded of mystery fans. Clues are casually dropped along the way and then neatly tied in a bow, and each character's motivations are called into question as this tale winds its way to a satisfying conclusion." Other local critics are less positive, but since I've generally been impressed by Stray Dog's work over the years, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and include this on the list.

Photo: Jack Hartin
The Fox Theatre presents Riverdance - The 20th Anniversary World Tour Friday through Sunday, February 12-14. Riverdance - The 20th Anniversary World Tour is an innovative and exciting blend of dance, music and song. Drawing on Irish traditions, the combined talents of the performers propel Irish dancing and music into the present day, capturing the imagination of audiences across all ages and cultures. Riverdance - The 20th Anniversary World Tour has set design by Robert Ballagh, lighting design by John Comiskey, costume design by Joan Bergin and sound design by Michael O'Gorman. The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: Yeah, I know. It has been around for so long it has become something of a cliche. But unless it has changed over the years since I first saw it, you can still depend on this high-gloss tribute to Irish step dancing to deliver plenty of high-decibel thrills. Go and enjoy, already.

Craig Pomranz
Topper Productions presents Craig Pomranz in Spend the Night With Craig, a special Valentine's Day cabaret show on Sunday, February 14, at 7 p.m. "Romance is in the air when one of the dreamiest voices in music', international cabaret star, Craig Pomranz, comes back home for Valentine's Day." Michel Roberts is pianist and music director for the show, which takes place at the Boom-Boom Room, 500 North 14th Street downtown. For more information:

My take: St. Louis's own Craig Pomranz has made a nice career for himself on the international theater and cabaret stage, but that doesn't mean he neglects the home town crowd, as his repeated visits to local stages attest. When he played the Kranzberg Center back in 2011 I wrote that he had "impressive vocal technique with an enviable head voice, easy falsetto, and solid breath control " along with the theatrical skill necessary to convincingly act a song. I have yet to make it over to the Boom Boom Room but I hear from those who have that it's a pretty cool space in the Washington Avenue nightclub district.

Held Over:

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."

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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