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.
Production still from Stray Dog Theatre's production of Psycho Beach Party. (l to r) Paul Edwards as Yo Yo, Jake Ferree as Provoloney, Ben Watts as Chicklet Forrest, Paul S. Cooper as Kanaka, Zach Wachter as Star Cat.
I love going to Stray Dog Theatre. I love the space, I love that Artistic Director Gary Bell greets everyone by name and with a warm embrace. I think Production Manager Jay Hall is one of the most organized, efficient, positive and kind-hearted people in the St Louis theater scene. Even the volunteers seem genuinely happy to pour you a wet one at the Bark Bar and serve the delicious baked goods (still made by Gary’s sister, Jennifer.) So I was very happy to see the opening night of their latest offering, Psycho Beach Party.
4000 miles is a long way to bike, from Washington State to Greenwich Village, New York. But bike it Leo does, and arrives at his grandmother’s apartment at three in the morning, redolent with the scent of travel. And at first, there’s an equally wide chasm of misunderstanding between 21 year-old Eco-hippie, Leo and 91 year-old leftist, Vera. So begins the Repertory Theater of St Louis’ studio offering, 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog, skillfully directed by Jane Page.
What fan of history or baseball, wouldn’t love to travel back to 1947 to witness the drama of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in his historic season with the Brooklyn Dodgers? 10-year-old Joey Stoshack has the ability to do just that, even though he was born in 2002. He just holds a baseball card in his hand, thinks about where he wants to go and poof! There he is, 1947, Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey and oh yeah, suddenly he’s black.
Upstream Theater has a reputation for doing the unusual and their newest offering, Café Chanson, conceived and directed by Ken Page, is unusual and wonderful. From the moment Bill Lenihan leads the audience from the lobby to the theater, playing "La Vie En Rose" on his accordion, you know this will be a unique experience. When I saw the list of songs I thought, “Oh, this is a cabaret.” But it isn’t, it is something else entirely, a lyrical, smoky, memory play told in rhyme and song. The actors don’t sing as much as they continue the story with the music.
2011 saw the Occupy movement and the beginning of a national discussion of fairness, equality and compensation disparity. How is it we live in this land of “equality” but experience such disproportion? David Lindsay-Abaire’s script, Good People, explores these questions and shows us that neither side is wholly right or wholly wrong. He gives us plenty to discuss but no answers. This is my favorite kind of theater, hot button issues without preachy solutions.
Twenty years ago the Black Rep opened their inaugural season at the Grandel with The Piano Lesson, now they are giving it another interpretation, utilizing the skills of actors who learned their craft as interns at the Black Rep and many who continue to return to the “family.” August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning script, the fourth in his Pittsburgh Cycle, has ghosts and music, avarice and love, sex and innocence. In the capable hands of director Lorna Littleway, it is a rollicking good time.
Talley’s Folly takes place in a decaying Victorian boathouse on the night of July 4, 1944 in Lebanon, Missouri. Matt Friedman (played by Shaun Sheley) a Jewish accountant from St Louis, comes to propose to Sally Talley, a free-spirited "southern" girl chafing under conservative home rule, whom he had fallen in love with a year earlier. It is a play about releasing secrets and allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to chose love.