Thursday, November 03, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of November 4, 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:

Karen Irwin
The Presenters Dolan presents Karen Irwin in Janis, Me, and Bobby McGee: A Janis Joplin Tribute on Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5, at 8 p.m. as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival. "In her magical, stunning tribute to Janis Joplin, Karen Irwin shakes us to the core." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information:

My take: Ms. Irwin's Joplin tribute has been getting praise from critics for a while now. called her performance at The Cabaret at the Columbia Club in Indianapolis "a perfect 10" while the critic for Nuvo News Weekly descried it as "of the finest "tribute shows" I've witnessed" the previous year. Tribute shows like this can be a risky proposition for a performer, but it looks like Ms. Irwin may have found a good balance here.

Manifest / Destiny
The West End Players Guild opens their 106th season with the world premiere of Manifest / Destiny by Vladimir Zelevinsky Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, November 4 - 13. There will also be a show on Thursday, November 10, at 8 PM. "In a year when America's immigration history and policies have been front-and-center in political conversations, Zelevinsky's play is especially timely and insightful. An ensemble cast playing dozens of roles offers poignant vignettes of the love and suffering, bravery and betrayal endured by four centuries-worth of immigrants fleeing the Old World for a chance to reinvent themselves in the new one. " 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: I'm on the board at West End Players as well as the play selection committee, so I'm pretty much pre-sold on this script. When we read it last year, we were all just bowled over by how well-written it was, but I don't think any of us could have anticipated just how relevant it would become in a year when mindless nativism has once again spreads its poison over the land. We have been here before, and more than once. Zelevinsky's play reminds us that we are, in the words of JFK, a nation of immigrants.

Mothers and Sons
Photo: Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally through November 13. "Time stopped for Katharine the day her son died of AIDS. Twenty years later, she seeks out his former partner, Cal, only to discover that he has a husband and a six-year-old son. As she and Cal explore memories of someone they both loved, Katharine begins a rocky journey toward reconciliation with the side of her son that she never understood." 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: Like Until the Flood, the show on the Rep mainstage right now, Mothers and Sons deals with how the untimely death of a young man affects and changes the living. Unlike the characters in Until the Flood the characters in Mothers and Sons are entirely fictional. But they are also clearly inspired by playwright McNally's personal experience as a man of the theatre living through a period that brought both the triumph of marriage equality and the tragedy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It's a powerful show with top-notch performances.

Gail Payne
The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present singer Gail Payne in Red, White and Blue Burgoo on Saturday, November 5, at 8 p.m. " Life-long Midwesterner and world traveler, Gail Payne presents a savory and sweet potluck of musical perspectives on the American dream. With a variety of ingredients from the musical gardens of Gershwin and Sondheim to Mellencamp and the Dixie Chicks, Payne cooks up a thought-provoking and entertaining evening that celebrates the complex flavors required for our increasingly nuanced American palate. Alex Rybeck is pianist and music director for the show, which is directed by Broadway star Faith Prince." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information:

My take: Ms. Payne is a veteran of the St. Louis Cabaret Conference, a week-long intensive training program for musical theatre and cabaret singers. I attended last year and was very taken with her work, both in class and in the final showcase. And the Emerald Room is a very cool venue.

Held Over:

Until the Flood
Photo: Peter Wochniak
Through November 6, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Until the Flood. Writer, performer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith spent a week in St. Louis interviewing people from every corner of the region about recent social unrest. From these conversations, she has crafted a play that reflects the complexity of St. Louis. Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information:

My take: While some reviews for this remarkable one-woman show have been mixed, I'm including it because it shines theatrical light on issues that have remained too long in the darkness in American in general and here in St. Louis in particular. "Through eight sharply drawn characters and a moving spoken word closing," writes Tina Farmer in a soon-to-be-published review at KDHX, "Orlandersmith challenges easy assumptions while making the case for continued conversation. As an actor, she is thoroughly engaging, with a clear purpose and focused action. Her characters are distinct and teeming with authenticity". Having seen the show myself, I can only add that this is a beautifully written and flawlessly acted show that deals in a surprisingly even-handed m

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