Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 26, 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:

Photo: John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Douglas J. Cuomo's opera Doubt, based on the play by John Patrick Shanley, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, August 26 and 27. "Father Flynn enjoys a secure appointment and popularity in the community until Sister James suspects him of carrying on an improper relationship with the school's first African-American student. Sister Aloysius, the school's authoritarian principal, sets out to remove Flynn. Gender politics, race relations and the role of the church, questions about personal responsibility, doubt, right and wrong are all brought to bear here. So much in Doubt is about what is left unsaid and continually running beneath the surface." The production stars famed soprano Christine Brewer as Sister James, a role she created at the opera's 2013 premiere. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in English with projected English text. For more information, visit or call 314-361-2881.

My take: As I write in my review for KDHX, I'm not convinced that the operatic adaptation by composer Douglas J. Cuomo and playwright John Patrick Shanley of the latter's 2004 play Doubt: A Parable and its 2008 film version is all the persuasive, but Union Avenue makes an extremely good case for it with a top-notch production, featuring impressive performances in all of the major roles. It brings their season to a very strong close.

Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents Kindertransport, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., through September 4. “During 1938-39, almost ten thousand children, mostly Jewish, were sent from families at risk in Nazi occupied Germany to safety in Britain. Samuel's play explores the lives of mothers and daughters torn apart and brought together by this “Kindertransport.” ” 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: The road to hell, says the cliche, is paved with good intentions. The intentions behind the British Movement for the Care of Children seemed good enough; it tried to save children from the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. But the emotional scars were significant, and they're all on display in the Diane Samuels's script, based on recollections of actual kindertransport children. "Director Deanna Jent has taken the raw emotions laid out by the playwright and spilled them out over two acts," writes Steve Allen at his Stage Door STL blog, "each encompassing less than an hour each. The lives affected are often hard to watch but Jent’s powerful lead brings us a story that we won’t soon forget."

Held Over:

Inherit the Wind
Photo: John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company presents the drama Inherit the Wind through August 28. "Bert Cates a 1920's schoolteacher is put on trial for violating the Butler Act, a state law that prohibits public school teachers from teaching evolution instead creationism. Rachel Brown who is Cates girlfriend is also the daughter of Reverend Brown is torn between the opposing beliefs held by Cates and her father and her love for both of them." Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre, 530 East Lockwood on the campus of Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit

My take: This classic portrayal of the struggle between science and superstition ought to be a museum piece, but the resurgence of radical fundamentalism has created a new wave of attacks on science in our public schools, making this script sadly relevant again. "In a political season," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "a play like Inherit the Wind, running through August 28, 2016 at Insight Theatre Company, serves to remind us that our vote often has ramifications that extend well beyond a politician's name or party affiliation. Our response to the challenges that face our country impacts society on every level, including the education of future generations. This stirring production presents a fresh, engaging, and well-performed case for education, helmed by two of our most persuasive stage veterans."

The St. Lou Fringe Festival runs through Saturday at several venues in the Grand Center area including the Kranzberg Arts Center (501 N. Grand) and TheStage at KDHX. Performances include traditional theater, dance, music, comedy, circus arts, performance art, cabaret, and burlesque, with acts from St. Louis and around the country. "This year's festival will coincide with Grand Center's new arts event Music at The Intersection and will include both new and familiar programming. 2016 will see the premiere of microtheater (short performances for an audience of no more than 9 patrons in an intimate, immersive setting), spin rooms (post show talk backs an workshops), Voices Unleashed (A number of festival slots are reserved for producers who are underrepresented in mainstream theatrical settings based on ethnicity, gender identity, language, dialect, age, physical ability, BMI, or other barrier), and an incubator program (a specialized collaborative showcase setting with more support for emergent artists). Past favorite programs like Fringe Family and the Artica sculpture garden will again enliven Strauss Park." For a complete schedule, visit

My take: I've been an enthusiastic supporter of the St. Lou Fringe since its scrappy beginnings in June of 2012. Four years later, the Fringe is a major player on the local cultural scene and is attracting attention nation-wide. If you've never "fringed," you have missed an awful lot of unusual—and often unique—entertainment. And this year, with the festival expanded to two weekends, there's no excuse not to check it out.

Tell Me On a Sunday
Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Tell Me on a Sunday Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through August 27. "This pop-rock song cycle follows a young English woman newly arrived in New York, brimming with optimism, and her journey through America and the perils of ill-advised romance. As she seeks out success and love, she weaves her way through the maze of New York and Hollywood social life, and through her own anxieties, frustrations, and heartaches, and she begins to wonder whether there are better choices to be made." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Center. For more information, visit or call 314-534-1111.

My take: Tell Me On a Sunday may be one of the least-known of Andrew Lloyd Webber's many musicals, right down there with the impressive Aspects of Love. As a one-woman show, it's also one of the most modest. It's by no means ALWs best work and, in fact, the composer himself later turned it into the first act of his full-length musical Song and Dance, but is has some fine music, including the lovely "Unexpected Song", and star Sarah Porter has gotten lots of praise for her performance.

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