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New This Week:
|A Doll's House|
Photo: John Lamb
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."
Photo: Jeremy Daniel
My take: This "boistrous, brainy Broadway hit" (Judy Newmark, STLToday.com) 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."
Photo: John Lamb
My take: With issues of immigration and the plight of refugees taking center stage these days in a political atmosphere of paranoia, ignorance, and bigotry (at least at the national level), Mustard Seed's show about the difficulty of adjusting to life in a new land could not be more timely. "Author and performance artist Rohina Malik," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "was inspired to look to the Chicago's immigrant and refugee population and ask: what might happen if the son of immigrants met a proud female refugee? The result is Yasmina's Necklace, a contemporary love story brought to life in a compelling and satisfying production that artfully weaves multiple cultures connected through a common religion and universally shared values...Mustard Seed Theatre has once again produced a thoroughly entertaining show that encourages audiences to broaden their perspective and to listen fully."
Photo: Eric Woolsey
My take: Lynn Nottage's play has received plenty of praise since it was first performed in Baltimore in 2003. The subsequent New York production, for example, got the Outer Critics Circle award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play. The New Jewish Theatre production is getting its share praise as well. Ann Lemmons Pollack calls it a "remarkable evening of theatre." "Outstanding performances by the entire cast under Gary Barker’s meticulous and well-crafted direction," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "make Intimate Apparel a rare beauty stitched from the finest theatrical cloth." Try it on this weekend.
|Rachel Tibbetts and Joe Hanrahan|
My take: Joe Hanrahan's Midnight Company has mostly served as a platform for edgy one-man shows starring Mr. Hanrahan, but this time around it's a two-character show that is essentially, as Mark Bretz writes at Ladue News "a caper with heavy doses of wry comedy sprinkled along the way in the friendly if sometimes combative banter between the two main characters...Little Thing, Big Thing doesn’t attempt to be profound and that’s why it succeeds as much as it does. It’s a ripping good yarn told just right, one that will leave you in a light-hearted mood after the performance as you head toward the local pub for a pint or two to discuss." Sounds like a plan to me.
|Menopause the Musical|
My take: This popular ensemble show has been around for a while now, having premiered in 2001 in Orlando, Florida, in a 76-seat theatre that once housed a perfume shop. It's last visit at the Westport Playhouse was ten years ago, and it seems to have lost none of it's comic shine. "Who will enjoy this," asks Ann Lemmons Pollack in her blog, "beyond women of what they call un age certain? People of both genders around them unless they have no sense of humor. That includes family, friends and co-workers. One of life's cruel jokes is that the menopause hits many households about the same time adolescence does. Here's something to tide us over."