Thursday, November 17, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of November 18, 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:

Pride of Dummies at Spectrum 2016
First Run Theatre presents the 2016 Spectrum One-Act Play Festival Friday and Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM, November 18 - 20. This year's plays are Placebo Effect and Reunion by David Hawley; The Technicians by Robert Stevenson; Most Real by Colin Percival McLaughlin; A Pride of Dummies and And They All Lived Happily Ever After Joe Wegescheide; Fartocalypse by Dan Viggers; and Fear of Mediocrity by Nathan R. Hinds. Performances take place in the Thomas Hunter Theatre at DeSmet Jesuit High School, 233 N New Ballas Road. For more information, call (314) 352-5114 or visit

My take: This annual collectin of new plays by local authors is always a mixed bag, but worth seeing if you're insterested in finding out what St. Louis playwrights are all about. "First Run Theatre and the local artists involved in their productions," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "offer a unique opportunity to see live theater in its nascent form, to be among the first to be moved by a new work. Or not. Not every show will hit all your buttons, but there's plenty to like. Theatergoers who enjoy a deeper dig into the art and craft of storytelling are sure to find a lot to discuss after seeing Spectrum 2016."

Fun Home
Photo: Joan Marcus
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Fun Home opening on Tuesday, November 15, and running through November 27. "Based on Alison Bechdel's best-selling graphic memoir, Fun Home introduces us to Alison at three different ages as she explores and unravels the many mysteries of her childhood that connect with her in surprising new ways. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Fun Home is a refreshingly honest, wholly original musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes." The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: Originally designed for a much smaller theatre, this small-cast show may not be an ideal match for the Fox's immensity, and the story is also somewhat out of the Fox's usual Broadway hit mainstream. Like Ms. Bechdel's original graphic novel, Fun Home leaps forward and backward in time to tell the story of how she and her two siblings helped out at the small town funeral home (the "fun home" of the title) run by her father, Bruce, who was also the local high school English teacher. Still, it’s exceptionally well done by a uniformly excellent ensemble cast. And in light of the dark strains of resentment let loose in the recent Presidential campaign. It reminds us that families can be difficult and that love is not always easy regardless of anyone's sexuality. Being human can just be hard sometimes, and we all need (as the old song goes) to "try a little tenderness."

Brooke Michael Smith
The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present singer Brooke Michael Smith in The Girl I Mean to Be on Friday and Saturday, November 18 and 19, at 8 p.m. "A night of songs and stories melding contemporary and classical musical theatre, refashioned pop songs, and a few original indie-folk tunes. There will be something for everyone throughout this journey of self-discovery and songs that have influenced Brooke along her way. Brooke was born and raised in St. Louis and has also lived and performed in Los Angeles, New York, and now San Francisco, where she was recently named Best New Cabaret Artist for 2016. Eryn Allen 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: A local girl who made good retruns to show us what has made her the toast of San Francisco. Her Friday night show is already sold out but a few tickets remain for Saturday. The Emerald Room is a very cool space and the bar at The Monocle has a great drink selection.

Hamlet: See What I See
Photo: Tina Farmer
Rebel and Misfits Productions presents Hamlet: See What I See, the first project in a series called The Immersive Theatre Project, through November 18. The show features an adapted script of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Performances take place at the Barnett On Washington, Grand Center. The show begins with a cocktail hour at 7:00 PM and audiences can expect direct contact with characters from the show throughout the evening as part of the immersive theatre experience. For more information:

My take: This immersive, audience-participation deconstruction of Shakespeare is clearly not for everyone, but if you're wiilling to abandon any preconceptions, Tina Farmer at KDHX suggests it might be worth your attention. "From private tours of the castle Elsinore to the immediacy and proximity of the story's action, the audience is fully enveloped by the show," she writes. "The St. Louis production integrates music and social media into the entertainment, and audience members are encouraged to take and share photos from their experience. Shakespearean purists will find plenty to criticize in the production. Yet I found the deconstructed script delightfully enigmatic and the forced focus on the visceral impact of the story completely captivating. Though I did not always have clear sight lines at the performance I attended, there were very few moments when I missed a line, and the overall effect of the show is a truly immersive experience."

Held Over:

The 2015 cast of All is Calm
Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents the a cappella musical All is Calm Thursdays through Sundays, November 11-December 4. “Join us in celebrating the power of peace in this acapella musical based on the true story of soldiers during World War I who for one night, put down their arms and played soccer instead of exchanging bullets.” 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: All is Calm has become an annual winter tradition at Mustard Seed. With a script by Peter Rothstein and musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, this story of the remarkable Christmas truce of 1914—a spontaneous outbreak of peace that occurred at multiple points along the trenches in France—combines splendid and often quite complex a cappella singing with readings of letters from soldiers and other historical documents. At a time when opportunistic politicians are pushing an agenda of hate, fear, and eternal war, this is a play that everyone needs to see. As we used to ask back in the 1960s, "what if they gave a war and nobody came?

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