Commedia dell'arte -- that wonderful theatrical form that emphasizes comedy through plot, dialogue and physical action -- comes to life on The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' stage. Richard Bean's laugh-out-loud interpretation of Carlo Goldoni's "The Servant of Two Masters," with songs by Grant Olding, follows the misguided adventures of Francis Henshall, a man attempting to fatten his belly and pockets by serving two gentlemen at the same time.
With this inspiring, engaging musical, the Black Rep once again demonstrates why it is among the most consistently exceptional theater companies in the region. From the selection of material to the technical details to the casting, the company produces compelling shows that entertain without shying away from substantive themes and provocative subjects.
R-S Theatrics once again chooses to take a different perspective on history, this time looking through the eyes, and hearts, of the women behind the presidents, our first ladies. It's a provocative approach, treated with a sense of the fantastic in Michael John Lachiusa's "First Lady Suite," and the company does a remarkable job of finding meaning, motivation and texture in their production.
St. Louis-based playwright, director and actor Stephen Peirick introduced audiences to "Four Sugars," during its premiere production at Stray Dog Theater's New Works Lab. Peirick's work has been produced in 12 states and he's won numerous accolades for both his full-length and one-act plays, so he's steadily building his reputation. If there are any doubters left, this two-act play should solidify Peirick's standing as an up-and-coming playwright of note.
Do artists control the characters that live in their minds, or are they controlled by them? Does our gender inhibit us or does it free our imagination? Can we be both the creator and the creature? Can the monster have questions of its own, beyond knowing the mind of its creator? Interesting questions to ponder from the "Mary Shelley Monster Show," a very intriguing and intellectually bent production.
With a focus on character development and the struggles of a tiny Wisconsin town, "The Spitfire Grill" is not your typical musical. It's a story of resilience and hope, yes, but it's also a nicely woven exploration of the fragile thread that keeps us from despair, mistrust and cruelty. Insight Theatre Company's current production plays small, drawing the audience in and delivering a warm, intimate story accompanied by heartfelt songs.
Imagine, if you will, that 80's pop icons Cyndi Lauper and Adam Ant decided to write a French farce with the style and mannerisms of Moliere, and a splash of Andy Warhol's self-aware pop sensibility. The resulting colorful chaos would approximate the humor, bright colors and gleeful excess of St. Louis Shakespeare's "The Liar."
The MUNY Theater closes out its eight-week season with this classic American musical, and I don't imagine they could make a better choice. With hummable songs, witty dialogue and pratfalls aplenty, this is the type of show the MUNY excels at -- it's big, bold and filled with laughs, romance and hope.
Joe Hanrahan's The Midnight Company, known for its intimate productions and one-man shows, delivers another satisfying work with its production of selected monologues by Eric Bogosian in "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll." The show feels fright at home in the wine cellar of Herbie's Vintage '72 in the Central West End, and Hanrahan expertly fills the space with rundown, but blissfully hopeful, characters.
Act Two, a community theater company in St. Peters, is to be commended for the ambitious productions they produce, as well as an attention to detail and character development. Though not quite to the level of a professional company, they routinely produce well-acted, thoughtfully directed shows that engage and entertain. Their most recent production, "The Curious Savage," nicely highlights the company's best attributes.