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Tina Farmer

An original play by Tesseract Theatre's artistic director Taylor Gruenloh, "An Initial Condition," running through May 24, 2015, is a thoughtful, and well thought-out, play. The script scatters a few interesting twists throughout, and is brought to life with solid performances and a compelling, if not at all lighthearted, subject. This piece, a premiere production directed by Robert Moss, may need a few additional revisions to improve the pacing, but continues a string of shows from the company that are challenging, entertaining and deeply provocative.

There's a lot of charm and plucky energy in Kirkwood Theatre Guild's tale of life as a single girl, circa 1922, running through May 10, 2015. The lead character, "thoroughly modern" Millie Dillmount, is filled with optimism and a spunky, can-do attitude. She's "fresh-from-the-farm" innocent, but with the smarts to quickly figure out the big city. Jeff Smith, a roguish boy with a kind heart and easy charm, matches Millie in wit and good-natured spirit, though he puts on a tough exterior.

Dramatic License Productions recently updated its vision to be a female focused company, with an emphasis on work written, performed and produced by women. The first show chosen in alignment with the company's new mission is "The Odd Couple (Female Version)," by Neil Simon, running through May 10, 2015. Directed by Alan Knoll, the show doesn't hit all the points of the new direction, but the leads and subject covered are decidedly intended to present the female perspective.

KTK Productions' "Sex Please, We're 60," running through May 3, 2015, is an amusing play, with more than a wink and a nod to the pleasures of flirtation, romance and, yes, sex. A modern farce with a touch of manners, the show has an amusing love quadrangle involving a would-be Don Juan and three potential paramours. Their romantic geometry is balanced by the long simmering love between the proprietor of a bed and breakfast and her longtime "gentleman caller."

Tesseract Theatre continues to demonstrate a commitment to finding not simply new plays, but new plays that tackle contemporary issues with inventive and imaginative plots and well-informed, yet natural, dialogue. Their current production "Age of Bees," by Tira Palmquist, is a thoughtful, and at times powerful, look at an apocalyptic future in which pollinating bees may be extinct.

St. Louis Actors' Studio continues their season of "The Best Medicine," laughter, with dry humor that is at times cruel, at times sarcastic, and always delivered with a hint of exaggeration. At its center, "Art," by Yasmina Reza, is a play with a big heart. There are simply a lot of layers of posturing and pretension to pull back before that heart is discovered.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Romantic poem comes to life in this atmospheric and immersive production from Upstream Theater that plunges the audience deep into the Mariner's tale. The play, a spectacular collaboration between Patrick Siler, who adapted the poem, composers and musicians Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult of the band Sleepy Kitty, and actors Jerry Vogel, as the Mariner, and Shanara Gabrielle and Patrick Blindauer as the ensemble, is an electrifying, thoroughly engrossing show.

Joan Lipkin and Darin Slyman, of the VITAL Voice, have paired up to produce the fourth annual "Briefs" short play festival. The acting and direction, as well as the enthusiastic audience, have always been strengths of the production, and each year the overall production values improve. Lipkin always builds a thematically linked storyline, featuring themes relevant to the LGBT community, allies and supporters. This year's story thread, which transitions from hesitation and confusion to insecurity and pain before ending on a note of strength, compassion and power, is well articulated and expertly layered.

Playwright Christopher Durang won a Tony Award for this insightfully hilarious look at aging and modern life through a lens tinted with Chekhov and Greek tragedy. The actors in The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' production of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" bring these characters to life convincingly, emphasizing their quirks, vanities and flaws in a production layered with humor and pathos, second questions and, perhaps, second chances.

St. Louis Shakespeare completes its commitment to producing all of William Shakespeare's plays with "Blood Reigns: Henry VI and the War of the Roses," a thoroughly compelling show culled from "Henry VI," parts 1, 2 and 3. The show, as adapted by director Christopher Limber, Michael B. Perkins and Robin Weatherall, brings Shakespeare's history to life with clarity and emotional undertones that color the performances.

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