Arthur Miller's famed play "The Crucible," introduced American audiences to the young girls of Salem Massachusetts and the famed witch trials and burnings that followed their accusations. Laurie Brooks presents a different viewpoint in "Afflicted, Daughters of Salem" her thoughtful and well-researched imagining of the lives of these young girls, and Metro Theater Company's current production at the Missouri History Museum through March 22, 2015.
"I think probably the most important skill in a family is being able to listen and really hear what another person is saying," says Metro Theater Company's Artistic Director Julia Flood. "That's what relationships are all about, taking in what you're getting from another human being and being able to respond to that with empathy. And teaching empathy is something the theater does, that's at the root of it."
A clever gear, perhaps a machine of some sort, but represented as a clock, sets the stage for the imaginative and inventive "Unsorted," a children's show from the Metro Theater Company. The actors, in costumes that cleverly represent piles of specific clothing types, are each expressive and emotionally warm. Their colorful garb, broadly emphatic gestures and friendly vocal tones create an inviting, engaging show for young audiences.
"The Fire Within", a biography of Jackie Robinson (2007) busts the generally accepted image of Robinson as the well-mannered, married, conventional Jackie and paints a portrait of an angry man who Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey urged to use his fury on the playing field, instead of in responding to his treatment by fans and teammates. This is the template Dan Gutman follows in his children’s book, "Jackie and Me", the basis for Steven Dietz’s play.
Metro Theater Company productions almost always have an exciting theatricality about them, like the current Battledrum, which is playing at the Missouri History Museum in concert with their Civil War exhibition. Battledrum opens with Union soldiers hurling firebrands at a Confederate homestead in Kentucky in 1863. Director Carol North gives us quick images of men racing about, leaping over a split-rail fence placed cunningly by set designer Nicholas Kryah, while John Armstrong's lights and Rusty Wandall's sound give us flames and explosions. It happens fast – just long enough to pull us into the story, short enough that we don't have time to ponder that we're watching lights flash and hearing loud sounds, not someone's home and barns being destroyed.
Eric Coble has turned Lois Lowry's popular novel for young people The Giver into a play. Both novel and play tell of a place that appears to be a utopia – no violence, no serious conflicts, no poverty, no hunger, everyone is very polite, very forgiving. Look a little deeper and this brave new world turns into a dystopia. Everything is carefully controlled. Humans have no deep feelings – no great sorrows, no great pleasures. Everything is, literally, gray.