Thursday, March 08, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of March 9, 2018

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 Looking Glass Playhouse presents the comedy Almost, Maine Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, March 8 - 18. "A woman carries her heart, broken into nineteen pieces, in a small paper bag. A man shrinks to half his former size, after losing hope in love. A couple keeps the love they have given each other in large red bags, or compress the mass into the size of a diamond. These playful and surreal experiences are commonplace in the world of John Cariani's Almost, Maine, where on one deeply cold and magical Midwinter Night, the citizens of Almost - not organized enough for a town, too populated for a wilderness - experience the life-altering power of the human heart. Relationships end, begin, or change beyond recognition, as strangers become friends, friends become lovers, and lovers turn into strangers. Propelled by the mystical energy of the aurora borealis and populated with characters who are humorous, plain-spoken, thoughtful, and sincere, Almost, Maine is a series of loosely connected tales about love, each with a compelling couple at its center, each with its own touch of sorcery." Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit www.lookingglassplayhouse.com.

My take: This is a charming set of romantically comic one acts with a strong dose of a kind of magical realism. We did the local premier of this a few years back at West End Players Guild and the show has been cropping up here and there ever since. I haven't seen the Looking Glass production, but I can attest to the fact that the play itself is first-class stuff.


Anything Goes
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents Cole Porter's Anything Goes Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm through March 24. "Anything Goes is a masterful mashup of musical comedy, gangster movie, screwball comedy, and social satire, because even in terms of form, anything goes. First opening in a time when John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, and evangelists Aimee Semple McPherson and Billy Sunday were all national celebrities, this was potent, pointed satire; and it's just as subversive today. The show's evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney is equal parts McPherson and infamous speakeasy hostess Texas Guinan (the model for Velma Kelly in Chicago). And though we never meet gangster Snake Eyes Johnson, he's seems a fair double for Dillinger." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Center. For more information, visit newlinetheatre.com or call 314-534-1111.

My take: Cole Porter’s 1934 hit has undergone at least three major revivals (and, to quote Tom Lehrer in a radically different context, "God knows how many between"), each one of which involved significant alternations in the script and score. The New Line production has apparently gone back to the original book (a collaborative effort among Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse (of Jeeves and Wooster fame), Howard LIndsay, and Russel Crouse)—whch is perhaps the most radical thing one can do with this show at this point. It's apparently working; Steve Callahan at KDHX calls it a "triumph" while over at Ladue News, Mark Bretz says the production "blends silly comedy, stylish music and effervescent performances in a winning combination which cleverly utilizes all hands on deck." I guess I need to reserve a ticket.


Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents The Aphra Behn Emerging Artists Showcase Friday through Sunday at 8 pm March 9-11. "The APHRA BEHN EMERGING ARTISTS' SHOWCASE is a festival of new plays written and directed by female artists. The festival is named for the British spy, playwright, poet, translator, and fiction writer from the Restoration Era. As one of the first English women to earn her living by writing, Aphra Behn broke cultural barriers and serves as a literary role model for later generations." Performances take place at The Centene Center for the Arts and Education, 3547 Olive in Grand Center. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

My take: What could be more appropriate for Women's History Month than the Aphra Behn Showcase? SATE has an impressive track record of producing new and innovative theatre in St. Louis.


L'Elisir d'Amore
Photo by Wylde Brothers Productions
Winter Opera St. Louis presents Donizetti's comedy L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love) Friday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, March 9 and 11. Performances take place at The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 S. Lindbergh. For more information, visit winteroperastl.org.

My take: Based on Eugène Scribe's libretto for Daniel Auber's popular comedy Le philtre from 1831, Felice Romani's libretto for L'Elisir d'Amore is the story of Nemorino, a humble peasant smitten with the wealthy and beautiful landowner Adina. She, though, is more taken with the macho Sergeant Belcore. In desperation, Nemorino buys a love potion (actually just some cheap wine) from the traveling quack Dr. Dulcamara. Complications, as they say, ensue. But all ends happily for everyone—including Dr. Dulcamara who, as the curtain descends, is still fleecing the suckers. Done well, this is great fun and the score boasts one of the most famous tenor arias in the repertoire, "Una furtiva lagirma" ("A furtive tear"). This Elisir is set in St. Louis's Italian-American Hill neighborhood during World War II and Nemorino is now an ice cream vendor—which suggests that someone at Winter Opera liked the 2014 Opera Theatre production concept as much as I did. Soprano Gina Galati (Adina) and bass Andrew Potter (Dulcimara) have both displayed a winning combination of vocal brilliance and fine comic timing in the past, so that bodes well for this production.


The Last Romance
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company presents The Last Romance through March 18. "The Last Romance is about an opera-loving American in his 70s who once auditioned for the Met. Currently widowed, he meets an attractive woman named Carol while living with his sister Rose. This humorous and tender play will leave audiences of all ages with the idea that it is never too late to feel alive!" Performances take place at The .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Midtown. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit insighttheatrecompany.com.

My take: I've been an admirer of playwright Joe DiPietro since I performed in the local premiere of his comedy Over the River and Through the Woods many years ago, so I have no hesitation recommending his work here. Besides, how can I resist a comedy about late-life love that involves opera? Based on Tina Farmer's review for KDHX, you probably won't be able to resist it either. "Anchored by veteran actor Joneal Joplin and featuring arias from Clark Sturdevant," she writes, "the production is a warm and tenderhearted diversion that feels instantly familiar and comfortable. And, while the show successfully makes a case for the benefits of remaining active and curious as we age, the lessons about love and friendship are delivered in a way that’s applicable to any one, at any age."

Held Over:

Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through March 31. Four women meet while shopping for a black lace bra at a lingerie sale. After noticing unmistakable similarities among one another, the cast jokes about their woeful hot flashes, mood swings, wrinkles, weight gain and much more. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: playhouseatwestport.com.

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 a review of the show last year, "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." Since this is effectively a remounting of that same production, I think I'm on safe ground putting it on the hit list, as I did last January.

1 comment:

Maggie Ryan said...

Thanks, Chuck for the recommendation to encourage all to see THE LAST ROMANCE--- but please note: it is performed at the Kranzberg Center 501 N. Grand March 15,16,17,18 call metrotix