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New This Week:
|As You Like It|
Photo: Joey Rumpell
My take: Directors never seem to tire of comin up with new twists on The Bard's plays, especially the comedies. Those approaches don't always work, but apparently moving the rustic action to the Ozark hills hits the right note (so to speak). "Director Ellie Schwetye focuses on the romance in this adaptation," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "complementing it with authentic bluegrass melodies by Jason Scroggins that transform many of the play's best known speeches and poems. The entire cast sings, stomps, and plays a variety of instruments throughout the fast-paced show, keeping the audience enthralled and eagerly awaiting the next scene."
Photo: John Lamb
My take: Les Blessing's play has been around for a while now and seems to be a perinneal favorite for small theatre companies. Writing for Stage Door St. Louis, Steve Allen says that he's seen several productions and "the current presentation at Mustard Seed Theatre is definitely one of the best. Three powerful actresses manage to energize us, empower us and tug at the old heart strings." At KDHX, Shannon Cothran calls it "solid and moving" while Mark Bretz at Ladue News says it's "a gentle and caring excursion into the magical and sometimes hazardous reaches of the mind and its mysterious powers."
|I'll Be Back Before Midnight|
Photo: John Lamb
My take: What could be better for a cold winter night than a tidy thriller? At KDHX, Tina Farmer says this one is "filled with enough twists and dark comedy to hold the attention of even the most jaded of mystery fans. Clues are casually dropped along the way and then neatly tied in a bow, and each character's motivations are called into question as this tale winds its way to a satisfying conclusion." Other local critics are less positive, but since I've generally been impressed by Stray Dog's work over the years, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and include this on the list.
Photo: Jack Hartin
My take: Yeah, I know. It has been around for so long it has become something of a cliche. But unless it has changed over the years since I first saw it, you can still depend on this high-gloss tribute to Irish step dancing to deliver plenty of high-decibel thrills. Go and enjoy, already.
My take: St. Louis's own Craig Pomranz has made a nice career for himself on the international theater and cabaret stage, but that doesn't mean he neglects the home town crowd, as his repeated visits to local stages attest. When he played the Kranzberg Center back in 2011 I wrote that he had "impressive vocal technique with an enviable head voice, easy falsetto, and solid breath control " along with the theatrical skill necessary to convincingly act a song. I have yet to make it over to the Boom Boom Room but I hear from those who have that it's a pretty cool space in the Washington Avenue nightclub district.
My take: Lovers of Irish theatre get not one but two shows by noted Irish playwright Conor McPherson. An site-specific production of The Weir is running at two local pubs through February 11 (see below) and now Upstream has opened Shining City. In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan calls this "a splendid evening of moving theatre."
|Underneath the Lintel|
Photo: Eric Woolsey
My take: As I noted in my review of the St. Lou Fringe presentation of this play in 2014 (which featured a bravura performance by Pat O'Brien), this is a terrific script. It's a fantasy, a mystery, and a wonderfully human story about the pursuit of someone who is no longer human at all. New Jewish is doing a revised version of the script in which the character is female rather than male, and Glynis Bell turns in a performance which, while very different from Mr. O'Brien's, is no less accomplished. As I write in my review for OnSTL, this .compelling and literate script offers plenty of food for thought, including implications about the nature of God that not everyone will find comfortable, and Ms. Bell's performance is a genuine gem. Don't miss it.
|The cast of The Weir|
My take: We saw McPherson's play many years ago in London, and found it a rattling good ghost story: well written with plausible characters. In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan says that "Cocktails and Curtain Calls company gives us what, to me, must be the definitive production of this beautiful play." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that the company "makes an impressive debut with a grand regaling of Irish playwright Conor McPherson's chilling drama...Setting the production in an actual tavern enhances the atmosphere immensely and, combined with director Kari Ely's careful direction of a top-rate cast, makes The Weir a fanciful tale and a tonic for a deep winter's night."