Friday, October 02, 2015

Chuck's Chloices for the weekend of October 2, 2015

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:

Black and Blue
Photo: ProPhotoSTL
Gitana Productions presents Black and Blue by by Lee Patton Chiles with music by Tbeats Entertainment at 8 p.m. on Friday, October 2 at the Missouri Hisotry Museum in Forest Park and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 4 at Parkway United Church of Christ, 2841 N. Ballas Rd. "An original play of hope and healing, exploring the assumptions that all young black men are dangerous, and that all cops are bad." For more information:

My take: The events in Ferguson, Missouri, last year resonated throughout the nation. Originally presented back in June, this drama by St. Louis playwright Lee Patton Chiles is, in the words of KDHX theatre reviewer Tina Farmer, "a thought provoking, well-acted and strongly worded play that stirs discussion in an attempt to create a fuller, more varied and nuanced understanding of racial conflict, not only in St. Louis but across America." Theatre can educate, enlighten, and provoke as well as entertain, and it looks like Gitana has a production here that does all three.

Photo: John Lamb
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Teresa Rebeck's Seminar through October 4 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. "A provocative comedy from Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck, four aspiring young novelists sign up for private writing classes with Leonard, an international literary figure. Under his recklessly brilliant and unorthodox instruction, some thrive and others flounder, alliances are made and broken, sex is used as a weapon and hearts are unmoored. The wordplay is not the only thing that turns vicious as innocence collides with experience in this biting Broadway comedy." For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit

My take: Ms. Rebeck is a prolific playwright and a darned good one. Her Mauritius, for example, was a big hit for West End Players a few years back. "The smartly written script," writes Tina Farmer in her review of Seminar for KDHX, "is complemented by solid performances from the ensemble and well-executed, if not always surprising, plot twists."

Valhalla Cemetery and The Hawthorne Players present Voices Of Valhalla: A Hayride Through History October 2-10. Hayrides through Valhalla Cemetery depart every fifteen minutes beginning at 6:30 each evening as members of the Hawthorne Players portray some of the noted locals buried in Valhalla. Valhalla Cemetery is located at 7600 St. Charles Rock Road. For more information, visit

My take: I had a chance to both see and appear in this annual event for the first time last year, and I must say that I was impressed by the professionalism of both the script (assembled by director Larry Marsh from historical sources) and the quality of the performances. Here's how it works: you pile on a hay wagon and are driven through historic Valhalla Cemetery. At various points during the ride, the wagon stops and an actor portraying a historical figure buried at Valhalla steps out of the darkness and delivers a monolog on his or her life. They can be comic, tragic, or a combination of the two, but they're always well researched and informative.

Held Over:

All the Way
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the drama All the Way through October 4. " It's 1963. Following the assassination of JFK, Lyndon Johnson becomes America's "accidental president." Launched into the presidency over a country in turmoil, LBJ maneuvers and manipulates his way through a series of power plays to pass the Civil Rights Act and to guarantee a full term in the Oval Office. Deception, bullying and blackmail are all strategies in his arsenal. But in this 2014 Tony Award Winner for Best Play, featuring a large landscape of people and characters, LBJ makes clear that it's not personal, it's just politics. " Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit

My take: If this play tells us anything, it's that the fight for justice never ends because the forces of hate, fear, and repression never go away. Brian Dyskstra heads a large and impressive cast as LBJ, beset on all sides because he decided to place principle above party and the good of the nation about political expedience by pushing through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It's hard to imagine a contemporary politician at the national level who would have this kind of courage, which does not bode well for the republic. This is great theatre and a great moral lesson. You will be sorry if you miss it. Performances continue through October 4th.

The Full Monty
Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical The Full Monty, based on the hit movie, through October 4. "Welcome back STAGES' red-hot award-winning smash hit THE FULL MONTY! If you were sold out the first time, you'll want to be sure to meet Jerry, Dave, Harold, Ethan, Malcolm, and "Horse" - six unemployed steelworkers who come up with a bold and unconventional way to make some much-needed cash, after witnessing their wives go wild for a group of male strippers. In the process, they discover renewed self-esteem and the importance of family, friendship, and the very human desire to live life to the fullest. With razor-sharp humor and toe-tapping pizzazz, THE FULL MONTY is musical theatre at its most heart-warming. " Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit or call 314-821-2407.

My take: Not everybody agrees with me, but I think this stage version of the classic British comedy works pretty well, with a book by noted playwright Terrence McNally that respects the original screenplay and a very effective score by David Yazbeck. Stages has demonstrated that they can be relied upon for a professional production, so I have no hesitation in recommending this.

Venus in Fur
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild opens their 105th season with David Ives' Venus in Fur Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, September 25 - October 4. " It's the end of a rainy day and a dismal casting call. As the director packs up to head home the door swings open, and in walks the woman who seems born for the role - strangely, eerily so. Is it the director's dream come true, or a stylish nightmare? Venus in Fur is David Ives at his best - very sexy, very funny and very, very smart. " There will also be a show on Thursday, October 1, at 8 PM. 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: Full disclosure: I'm on the board and play reading committee at West End and was a big supporter of this play. I was very impressed by the Rep's production of this smart comedy/drama/fantasy when they did it and I expect good things from this production. I have worked with both of the actors and can personally attest to their skill. Trust me, Paula Stoff Dean was born to play this part.

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