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My take: Ms. Irwin's Joplin tribute has been getting praise from critics for a while now. Broadwayworld.com 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|
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
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.
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.
|Until the Flood|
Photo: Peter Wochniak
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