New Jewish Theatre opens their 17th season with Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor. More of a sketch comedy piece than a true play, the small vignettes of Anton Chekov’s short stories, represent slices of Russian life at the turn of the last century and are quilted together by a narrator, a writer who is auditioning some of his characters for us. David Wassilak plays the narrator and involves himself in several of the stories (either as the narrator character or as a specific character, it’s a bit unclear.)
I know everyone is probably making the same pun, but Stages St Louis’ closing show of their season, My Fair Lady is, without any doubts, absolutely “loverly.” The moment you enter the theater James Wolk’s set draws you in and sets you down in a London market street circa 1910. Costumes by Dorothy Marshall Englis are exquisite thorough-out, but the opening sets the tone so you are holding your breath to see what Eliza wears at her transformation.
I’m a big fan of opening nights and when it is the Repertory Theatre opening their 47th season with Cabaret, expectations are enormous. There is much to like in this lavish production. As is always true at the Rep, the technical aspects are gorgeous. Michael Schweikardt’s Kit Kat Club is more than just the stage upon which the story sets, it becomes, as he had hoped, another character in the play. Angela Wendt’s costumes, with the exception of the Kit Kat girls opening jazzercise outfits, are eccentric and opulent when appropriate, and tacky and tawdry when needed.
Last year, Ron Conner led Black Rep casts in four out of five productions, and from the first, became one of my favorite actors to watch. This year he leads the Black Rep away from its twenty-six year home at the Grandel Theater to the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theater on the campus of Washington University and opens the new season with a sizzling one man show, Emergency. (The Black Rep was recently unceremoniously dumped from their long-time home. Hotchner will not be a permanent space for them, but was the perfect space for this particular show.)
If you like your comedy dark and twisted, irreverent and absolutely “for adults only,” you’ve probably been a fan of HotCity Theatre for ages; and their latest offering, Entertaining Mr. Sloane by Joe Orton, shouldn’t be missed. First, it’s a rare chance to see Orton’s first play, written in 1964. While no longer scandalous, it’s a great touchstone to see how far we have evolved. Second, it has some of the strongest technical elements I’ve seen to date in the Kranzberg Art Center’s black box theater. Third, the pre-eminent comic actor in town, Lavonne Byers, leads the able cast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.