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|The 2015 cast of All is Calm|
Photo: John Lamb
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in France—combines splendid and often quite complex a cappella singing with readings of letters from soldiers and other historical documents.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?"
Photo: Joey Rumpell
My take: Ready for some things that go "bump" in the night? Slightly Askew apparently has what you're looking for in this darkly ambiguous vampire story. "As evidenced by this pensively dark, intensely nuanced and complex production of Joseph Wilde's Cuddles," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble remains among the most artistically and intellectually stimulating theaters in the region, if not the entire Midwest. This may be reason enough for theatergoers to add the company's current production to their calendar. Add in Joe Hanrahan's viciously perceptive direction, Tibbetts and Schwetye's profoundly broken yet mesmerizing performances, and excellent stagecraft, and you get a piece of noir theater that shines with brilliance."
My take: I haven't seen this production and my schedule won't give me a chance to do so, but I have loved this play ever since I played Boolie (Miss Daisy's put-upon son) in the West End Players production many years ago. And the leading actress, Nancy Crouse, is an ideal pick for the role of the cantankerous Miss Daisy. Having worked with Hawthorne Players in the past, I can also attest to the consistently high technical quality of their shows as well.
My take: As a failed pianist, I always like it when (to quote a lyric from a Jimmy Durante classic) "a real piano player sits down at the keys." I also happen to be very fond of ragtime and its immediate descendants like stride. Ms. Carmichael has an impressive resume and the intimate space of the Gaslight should be good for this kind of show.
My take: "Haller is a charming and talented performer with a voice as smooth as a brandy Alexander," wrote Robert Mitchell in a KDHX review of Ken's Sondheim show back in 2011. I couldn't agree more. Ken is an immensely talented gent with impressive credentials in both the theatrical and cabaret worlds and he has been producing top-notch cabaret here in town as well as in Chicago and New York for several years now. And right now this country very much needs a show about the healing power of music.
My take: We have an embarrassment of cabaret riches in St. Louis this weekend, as this show clearly indicates. Mara is a great talent and Carol Schmidt is one of our town's finest music directors. And the Emerald Room is one of the coolest music venues in town.
|Manifest / Destiny|
Photo: John Lamb
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 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. An excellent ensemble cast under the fluid direction of Steve Callahan reminds us forcefully of where we all came from and why we should remember how much our ancestors had to give up to get here.
|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.