Donna Parrone

Theater Reviewer

Donna Parrone has been involved with St Louis theater since moving here in the 1980's. She is one of the founders of HotHouse Theatre (now HotCity) and has been an actor, a producer, a director and an educator.

(Courtesy of Joan Marcus)

It seems like everyone I know loves Anything Goes. My best friend in college was madly in love with Patti Lapone when she played Reno Sweeney back in 1987 and Mel Brooks says he decided to go into theater after seeing the 1934 production with Ethel Merman. The 2011 Tony winning production by Roundabout Theatre Company is making its St Louis premiere now through June 9th at the Fox with a glittering and ebullient Rachel York at the helm, channeling a bit of Mae West from time to time. The story is silly and campy with lots of puns and old jokes that are still fun.

(Courtesy of Peter Wochniak)

Sunday night of An Iliad’s opening weekend found me headed down to one of my favorite theaters, Upstream Theater, where the work is always interesting. I attended this St Louis premiere with one of my favorite gals and the actor of this one man show, Jerry Vogel, is one of St Louis’ finest. Director Patrick Siler created an evening of intense storytelling and music; the music provided with great finesse by Farsid Soltanshahi.

(Courtesy of Todd Studios)

Somehow the notion that the 1950’s were an idyllic time in America continues to exist and people continue to idealize that decade in terms of gender confidence, family values and strong American ethics. No one remembers that 37% of (mostly poor) women worked outside the home, 11% of the population was gay and racism was rampant. Welcome to Maple and Vine , HotCity Theatre’s second production of their 2013 season. Directed by Doug Finlayson, Maple and Vine harkens back to the beginnings of HotHouse Theatre, when the scripts were provocative and surprising.

(Courtesy of Stewart Goldstein)

There is comfort in a familiar musical. You sing snatches of song starting a few days before you go. You see the show and all the lyrics come flooding back and fill your head for days to come, humming under your breath or full out sing-alongs on the way into work. A new musical can be even more exciting, especially the anticipation. How will song and story be integrated? Will you come away singing any of the songs? Is it a story for the ages, or a piece that will one day be dated and irrelevant?

(Courtesy of Stewart Goldstein)

I appreciate every day I learn something new. A little over 1% of all Southern slaveholders were Jewish and they treated their slaves the same as everyone else. The Whipping Man, opening at the St Louis Black Rep, combines this fact with an intriguing story of faith, family and freedom. The Whipping Man, by Matthew Lopez takes place in April of 1865, after Lincoln has freed the slaves, after the South has surrendered, and during Passover. That’s relevant because the returning Confederate soldier, Caleb, is Jewish, as are his family slaves, Simon and John.

(Courtesy of Jerry Naunheim, Jr.)

This past weekend saw the opening of Double Indemnity at the Repertory Theatre of St Louis and As You Like It at St Louis Shakespeare. These are very different plays but, in watching both, I was taken by the roles of women through the ages and what that represents, then and now.

(Courtesy of Jerry Naunheim, Jr.)

The Repertory Theatre of St Louis opened their final studio offering for the season with Venus in Fur by David Ives, directed by Seth Gordon.  Thomas, played by Jay Stratton, is a playwright trying to cast his female lead, Vanda (Sarah Nedwek) in an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel Venus in Furs—the novel that coined the term “masochism.” The play is highly entertaining but the promise of seduction was not fulfilled.

There are times when theater is truly larger than life. There are times when it inspires with the message of the story and the creativity of the production, the spectacle of theater which teaches us something about the spectacle of life and encourages us to live on a grander scale. Not in material possessions, but in our thoughts and aspirations.  War Horse, which opened at the Fox Wednesday night to an enormous crowd, is just such a theatrical adventure and the audience’s pleasure was marked by a proper standing ovation at the end of the night.

(Courtesy of John Lamb)

In 1988 David Mamet’s Speed the Plow opened on Broadway with its skewering, shocking truths about how films get made in Hollywood. In 2013, no one is unaware of how Hollywood makes the blockbusters or the stars.  (If a studio pays enough papers to say a movie or a star is “the next big thing” eventually the average person thinks it’s true.) No longer shocking, but with plenty of meat for discussion, Speed the Plow opened this weekend at the New Jewish Theatre.

©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Opening night at the Repertory Theatre of St Louis is always a delight, the energy is high and the audience filled with St Louis theater people. And delightful certainly describes the opening night of Jon Jory’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, not only because the direction is strong, the ensemble equally polished and the technical aspects gorgeous, but also because there are a number of St Louis actors onstage which added to the celebratory atmosphere.