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New This Week:
|"The Grind" from Briefs|
Photo: Max Friedman
My take: If Briefs is about anything, it’s about the fluidity of identity and the diversity that comes from it. If America is about anything, it’s about diversity. And that, no matter what some people will try to tell you, is a good thing. Diversity in nature increases resistance to extinction. Diversity in the workplace leads to smarter teams and better problem solving. Diversity is a source of strength. E pluribus unum. Go, see, and enjoy.
My take: Jim Dolan is bringing the spring edition of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival to a big close with a show by one of Broadway's newest and brightest talents. "The craftsmanship of the lyrics is impeccable," wrote Mark Horowitz in a DC Theatre Scene article on Mr. Lutvak's show in January, "dripping with wit, and sporting rhymes that leave one gasping in awe. The music is immediately and tunefully accessible, but listen more closely and you’ll hear harmonies, accompaniments, and flourishes that are the work of a composer with a unique voice and something to say."
Photo: John Lamb
My take: Lee Blessing's work has appeared fairly frequently on local stages in recent years, and with good reason: he's an original and sometimes provocative voice. "An honest look at what is possible -- and seemingly impossible -- in human encounters lies at the heart of many Lee Blessing plays," wrote Michael McGregor in a 2010 review of Great Falls for Oregon Live. "Letting each character have his say -- and his due -- he shines a harsh but understanding light on contemporary American problems."
|Hedwig and the Angry Inch|
Photo: John Lamb
My take: "When Hedwig brings her Angry Inch band to St. Louis," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "you better get ready for a punk rock throwback that's still a force to be reckoned with. This is the premise, feel, and atmosphere Stray Dog Theatre has created for their production of John Cameron Mitchell's angry ode to the downtrodden working class, running through April 16, 2016 and directed by Justin Been. This is Hedwig's story and uniquely hers, but she shares kinship with musicians, artists, and rebels -- transgender, queer, and straight -- who have stories they are compelled to tell. Fame be damned." This aggressive rock musical is not new to St. Louis, of course, but Stray Dog is putting their own spin on it by turning their space into the seedy rock club where Hedwig performs, complete with table service.
The University of Missouri at St. Louis presents Idris Goodwin's How We Got On Thursday through Sunday, April 7-10. "Hank, Julian, and Luann are three talented, determined suburban teens coming of age in the 1980s. Dreaming of fame and fortune in the new Hip-Hop music scene, they must overcome cultural isolation, familial dysfunction, and ruthless rivalries to make the music that defines their lives. A sultry DJ spins their stories with her own meta-theatrical perspective in this contemporary ode to the roots of rap." The performances take place at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. For more information, touhill.org or call 314-516-4949.
My take: I saw the world premiere of this show at the 2012 Humana Festival of New American plays and was simply blown away by it. As I noted in my review, this is a literate, poetic, deeply felt and warmly human look at three suburban teens (two black and one Latino) in 1988 trying to make sense of their lives, their ambitions, and their relationships with their parents while learning to express themselves with rhymes and beats. A DJ/narrator holds it all together and weaves a highly educational history of history of rap into the story. The result is a compelling, moving, funny, and exciting piece of theatre. I'm glad to see that it has finally made its way to St. Louis.
Gateway Opera presents William Bolcom's chamber opera Lucrezia Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9, at 8:00 p.m. "Lucrezia is a chamber opera, composed by William Bolcom, with libretto by Mark Campbell, scored for five singers and two pianists. It's a zarzuela riff on Machiavelli's La Mandragola and re-imagines the comedy's heroine as an intelligent seductress in charge of her own destiny." Performances take place at Washington University's 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information: gatewayopera.org.
My take: Well, how often do you get to see chamber operas by William Bolcom? Or any operas, for that matter? An eclectic composer and student of a wide variety of popular and classical music, Mr. Bolcom's musical voice is not heard nearly often enough on concert and opera stages.
My take: What can I say about this classic that has not already been said? The type of small town life depicted in Wilder's play (the action place between 1901 and 1913) was already passing from the scene when it premiered in 1938. By rights it should be a museum piece by now. But the writing touches so effectively on the universal human experiences of birth, life, and death that it never seems dated.
|Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing|
Photo: John Gitchoff
My take: While the reviews for this show have been mixed, I saw it last weekend and was very impressed. It's a fascinating look at a historical turning point both in American history in general and in the history of baseball, our national pastime, in particular. It uses the life of Satchel Paige as a metaphor for the passing of black American institutions that were made irrelevant by integration, and ties it up with the changes taking place in jazz at the same time. This is heady and smart stuff, and while the second act, in particular, could stand with some trimming, it's still a powerful show from the team that brought us the remarkable Fly a few seasons back. At a time when reactionary political forces are trying to undo all the good done since 1947, this show is very relevant.