Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 17, 2017

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:

The Ice Fishing Play
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild continues their 106th season with The Ice Fishing Play Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM, February 16-19. Described as "Joel and Ethan Coen meet Samuel Beckett," The Ice Fishing Play is written by story teller and NPR radio broadcaster Kevin Kling, dubbed the "Minnesota Story Laureate." 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: In the interest of full disclosure, I must point out that I'm on both the board and the play reading committee at West End. That said, critics have had good things to say about this production, so you don't need to just take my word for it that it's worth your time. At Stage Door STL, Steve Allen writes that "a funny script with a universal theme running through it makes for an enigmatic and moving play. A solid cast doesn’t hurt either." Mark Bretz at Ladue News agrees. "Aficionados of Coen Brothers films," he writes, "will recognize character types that populate The Ice Fishing Play, minus the violence but not the charm. It’ll make you think and touch your heart just as much. You betcha."

To Kill a Mockingbird
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Christopher Sergel's stage adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird through March 5. "Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a beloved tale that still resonates today. Scout Finch is growing up in Depression-era Alabama, where poverty and prejudice dominate daily life. With the guidance of her wise father, Atticus, the rebellious Scout discovers her own path, learning the power of empathy and the struggle for justice." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information:

My take: With racism and bigotry on the rise again in America, this classic story of one lawyer's courageous stand for justice is, I'm sorry to say, every bit as relevant as it was when Harper Lee first set it down in novel form. And the Rep's innovative production has many admirers. "I find myself again and again wanting to use the word 'strong when I think about what the Rep is doing with Mockingbird," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack. "It’s moving, extremely well executed, and a perfect fit for almost any audience." "There is a rhythm that’s unique to this production," notes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat. "The small tight-knit black community moves through scenes by singing spirituals and gospel songs, their voices strong in unison. Using music to depict their culture and struggles was a brilliant stroke, punctuating the racism and discrimination"

Held Over:

A Doll's House
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents Ibsen's drama A Doll's House through February 18. “Nora Helmer once committed forgery in order to save the life of her authoritarian husband, Torvald. Years later she is being blackmailed, living in fear and shame of what might destroy Torvald's career. When the truth is revealed, Nora is shocked to learn where she really stands in her husband's esteem. Henrik Ibsen's world_renowned drama contains perhaps the most scandalous theatrical climax in all of 19th century drama." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Stray Dog seems to have done it again with a highly-praised mounting of Ibsen's once-controversial (and still trenchant) look at the battle of the sexes. "Ibsen’s prescient look at a stifling marriage in an oppressive 19th Century Norway jumps off the page in this acting showcase," writes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat, "featuring possibly career-best work from four principals and seamless support from minor characters." Mark Bretz at Ladue News agrees, calling it "a richly textured and faithful rendition to the spirit of Ibsen’s classic work, bolstered with finely etched characterizations by an ensemble of players who benefit from artistic director Gary Bell’s meticulous and carefully measured direction."

Something Rotten
Photo: Jeremy Daniel
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Something Rotten through February 19. "Set in 1595, this hilarious smash tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers who are desperate to write a hit play. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world's very first MUSICAL!" The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: This "boistrous, brainy Broadway hit" (Judy Newmark, just closed recently after a highly successful run on the Great White Way, in part because it does something that has proved very successful in recent years: make fun of the genre it represents. The fact that it does so by also sending up Shakespeare and theatre in general just adds to the fun. "The show really shouldn’t work," notes Ann Lemmons Pollack—"it’s a first effort from two brothers who had different careers, one a songwriter and the other a screenwriter for Disney, it pokes nasty at Shakespeare, and there’s plenty of mash-up in it. But the show is so deeply We-Love-Theater (another potential danger point) that the mash-up becomes homage with tongue inserted, nay, sutured, into cheek."

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