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With her fanciful play "Or," Liz Duffy Adams has reimagined the early Restoration period with a touch of James Bond, a dose of women's liberation and a heaping helping of pop sensibility and color. Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble's production of the inventive work adds enthusiasm, a touch of steampunk style and a heaping handful of sass. Under the direction of Ellie Schwetye and dramaturge Louise Edward Neiman, the many disparate influences fit together wonderfully in this stylishly entertaining production.

If there's one thing Edward Albee knows, without equivocation, it is the darker side of intimacy. The deep cuts two people can inflict on each other, the way they keep jabbing at the same wounds, ensuring they never heal but remain raw and painful. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," perhaps Albee's most well known work, is a tour de force in this respect, and the St. Louis Actors' Studio production does not disappoint.

The St. Louis Repertory Theatre's current production, "The Winslow Boy," by Terrence Rattigan, is, at its heart, a play about fatherly love, loyalty and social justice. The show is thoughtfully directed by Steven Woolf, and features fully engaged, well-developed performances by a strong ensemble.

Mustard Seed Theatre's current production is the world premier of local playwright Rob Maesaka's touching historic fiction, "White to Gray." The story intertwines interracial romance and ages-long battles between parents and their children with history. In particular, the show offers a personal glimpse into the effect of World War II on Japanese Americans in Hawaii (as well as other American communities).

Yasmina Reza has crafted a wickedly funny, sharply pointed play that questions just how civilized we really are, as a society. The realistically absurd plot digs further, questioning the value of not allowing time and space for our more primitive nature to be expressed, particularly when children are still young and maturing. More than merely thought provoking, these questions have a resonance to them in a quick-to-accuse and quicker to sue culture that's easily accessible by most Americans.

Some teachers want to inspire children, to build their minds and prepare them for the future. Other teachers want to protect children, to insulate them from the dangers of reality, to nurture and to care for them. In Evelyne de la Chenelière's inspiring play, "Bashir Lazhar," the title character, a substitute teacher, seems to be motivated by both concerns, resulting in a thoroughly compelling, poignantly layered story and character.

The New Jewish Theatre considers practical, moral and ethical questions surrounding wealth, greed, religion and motivation in its current production, Deb Margolin's "Imagining Madoff." The story weaves transcripts, testimony, interviews and writings to explore not simply now Madoff succeeded in stealing so much money from so many unwitting people, but what compelled him to do so and why was it so easy?

Occasionally, a play sneaks up on you, grabbing you at some visceral, emotional level and knocking you down. The Studio at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' current production is that kind of a play. Deeply thoughtful, and grounded in history, "Safe House" challenges assumptions, providing a seldom seen glimpse of the old south, delivered in richly textured, carefully developed performances.

In Ken Ludwig's fanciful farce, a golf tournament, an impending engagement and an ill-advised bet between old rivals converge to create an over-the-top comedy that offers easy laughs and physical comedy even if, at times, it tries a bit too hard to please. "The Fox on the Fairway" quickly introduces us to the various characters while setting up a plot that, though not particularly original, is well suited for the far-fetched twists, improbable revelations and comic misunderstandings of farce.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves takes on contemporary divorce and it's wide reaching impact in their current production "Dinner with Friends" by Donald Marguiles. The story is quite interesting, and well-written, but the production lacks the emotional punch and requisite tension needed for an audience to go along for the rough ride.

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