In Performance: 'Titus Androgynous' twists Shakespeare in an over-the-top horror farce and 'Heisenberg' kicks off the Rep's Studio season
It's Halloween weekend in St. Louis and there's plenty of haunting goings on. Why not start your festivities by seeing a play or musical? As a bonus, your costume will likely be welcomed and complimented! This week's In Performance spotlights both the "bad" -- a battle of will with tragic consequences all around -- and the "good," a sweetly personal story about an unexpected friendship that begins while waiting for the train.
YoungLiars, a thoughtfully ambitious and energetic company headed by Maggie Conroy and Chuck Harper, amps ups the blood letting and body parts with Titus Androgynous, a comic interpretation of William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus that's supported by a number of critical scholars and writers. The story of the Roman general's defeat of the Goths and subsequent bitterly personal feud with the scheming Goth queen Tamora is not considered among Shakespeare's best; but it is his bloodiest, stuffed with continuous action and deviantly vicious revenge. A notable curiosity, this is the third recent retelling of the rousing but infrequently performed tale in St. Louis this season.
It is logical and possible to interpret the show as parody "perhaps directed towards contemporary Christopher Marlowe as well as the period preference for theatrical blood and guts," Harper offers. "Viewed as comedy, the script is filled with double entendres and puns that create thematic shifts in perspective. We looked at the script from that angle and found farce." Under Harper's direction, the comedy is constant and bloody, nearly 10 quarts of stage blood are used each show. The adaptation, also by Harper, includes several new songs by Paul Cereghino that push the exposition and compress the timeline. YoungLiars Titus Androgynous: A Comic Spectacle runs through November 11, at the Centene Center for the Arts.
I ask you in all mock seriousness, what better Halloween weekend choice can horror fans have?
Steven Woolf directs Susan Louise O'Connor and Joneal Joplin in the surprisingly intimate and heartwarming Heisenberg. Georgie, an odd and impulsive woman, briefly engages Alex, an older gentleman also waiting at the London train station. She's brash and crass and outspoken, he's of a more subdued ilk. The unexpected start to their relationship turns to conversation, and the two being an awkward friendship.
The one-act show opens the St. Louis Repertory Studio Theatre's season, spinning two very disparate people into a shared orbit and exploring each character's quirks and personality. The two discover they have much in common even as they question the connection they feel. Running through November 12, Heisenberg is life affirming and uplifting, a nice reminder to "stop and smell the roses" and other extraordinary moments in our daily life.
Continuing this weekend:
If you're in the mood for murderous stories and haunting tales, you'll want to catch the Repertory Theater of St. Louis' first ever production of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, running through November 5th. Arguably one of the Bard's greatest plays, the dark story tells of lust, murder, and revenge among Danish royalty.
Insight Theater Company brings Sherlock Holmes and his loyal companion Dr. Watson to life in Tony award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig's comic mystery Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, running through October 29. John O'Hagan and Ken Coffield are extra clever, amiable, and delightfully engaging, while Elliot Auch, Ed Reggi and Gwen Wotawa create a wonderful ensemble, with each showing theatrical flexibility and sharp comic timing in multiple roles.