In Performance: The Black Rep and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis open their seasons with bold, contemporary shows
Welcome to fall and this week's KDHX In Performance feature, where we preview new shows from two of St. Louis most prestigious and successful companies, The Black Rep and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (aka the Rep). After last year's milestone seasons, both companies return with contemporary shows that touch on topics and issues many in the audience may face.
The Black Rep opens its 41st season with Colman Domingo's DOT, in performance through September 24, 2017. The show looks at Alzheimer's and dementia, and the impact and strain that can be put on a family when an older parent's health is failing before their eyes. Despite its serious subject matter, the comedy is engaging, with a story that's heartfelt, warm, and funny.
The holidays are always a wild time at the Shealey house in West Philly, but this year the stakes are much higher in the smartly scripted play with laugh out loud humor and warp-speed shifts. Matriarch Dotty Shealey and her three grown children have gathered to celebrate, but Dotty's memory is failing and the siblings are struggling with how to best provide the care she needs. The three must work together to make their way through aging, midlife crisis, and the need to balance caring for their selves and their mother. The situation is realistic and current; and Ron Himes has been following the play since its Humana Festival debut.
The actor who originated the role of Dotty has worked with The Black Rep several times, Himes notes. She called Himes to tell him about the show, stressing that he needed to read the script. Already a fan of actor and playwright Domingo, Himes was immediately interested. He's also "genuinely impressed by the great work the cast is doing," and the way the show is coming together. "We have four actors (out of a cast of seven) making their Black Rep debut in this show," he adds with pride. Himes also feels the show is an exciting choice to open the 41st season. "This is a contemporary play about a family coming together. It is sharp, perceptive, and filled with bone-dry humor," Himes emphasizes. "You will be laughing, but the subject is a stressful reality for many." You can be among the first to see the warm and funny DOT at The Black Rep in the Edison Theater at Washington University, beginning September 6, 2017.
The Rep opens its 51st season the same night with the 2015 Tony award-winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Simon Stephens, running through October 1, 2017. The imaginative show introduces Christopher, a 15-year old wiz kid who struggles with the interactions of day-to-day life. The production, directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, uses choreography and an intentional emphasis on movement to create an innovative experience for theatre goers that "puts them in Christopher's shoes."
The show is personal and, as Milgrom Dodge explains, "There's two distinct mysteries to solve: the mystery of 'Who killed Wellington?' and the truth about a family of three who navigate the challenging cards life has dealt them. The protagonist, Christopher, is exceptionally smart and, though he lacks the ability and understanding of emotions and empathy," she notes, "he is determined to solve both mysteries."
From a staging standpoint, The Rep's production will look -- and feel -- decidedly different from the Broadway and London shows. An intentional choice of the artistic team, it is designed to "give [the play] a location, and create these relationships between Christopher and others," she enthuses. The audience is presented with "Christopher's worldview," and Milgrom Dodge is genuinely anticipating the reaction to the focus on movement and a more immersive theater experience.
The Rep is the first regional theater to tackle The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and you can be among the first in St. Louis to see the buzz-worthy show.
Continuing this weekend: With the change of season comes a change in companies. Multiple productions took their final bows last weekend to full houses and appreciative audiences. However, the sweet-natured, musically pleasing Church Basement Ladies continues its run at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza through October 1, 2017. The life-affirming show is a genuine slice of mid-American apple pie. Several other companies have shows opening in the coming weeks, so check this space again next week for new listings and continuing shows. And, as always, remember to check out the KDHX Calendar for information on art and music in and around St. Louis.