St. Louis Actors' Studio once again features the talents of emerging and established playwrights with the second "LaBute Festival of New Plays," a month long presentation of short plays presented in two parts. Teeming with subtext and slow revelations, part one features a fascinating mix of complex characters and intriguing situations.
Harold Pinter's tale of family dysfunction is a well-acted, sharply directed and tightly produced piece, driven by a surprisingly satisfying level of dark humor and absurdity. What it lacks are easy answers and a clear path towards resolution, though this, too, is done with careful intention.
Fans of playwright Arthur Miller are lucky to have several productions currently on St. Louis stages. St. Louis Actors' Studio stands out with "The Ride Down Mount Morgan." The tightly wound, well acted production envelopes the audience in the small theater, delivering a memorable version of a beautifully crafted drama.
In today's conflicted politically correct culture, the idea of evolution as necessary to the survival of a species is more fodder for disagreement than measured study. When applied to a family filled with secrets, however, the question gains a certain tragic purpose, fraught with remorse and filled with pain. The St. Louis Actors' Studio digs deep and finds no clear answers in Nicky Silver's bitingly funny, yet poignantly tragic "Pterodactyls."
That a man named Lincoln would portray President Lincoln in an arcade role playing game is an interesting twist; that the same man would have a brother intentionally named Booth is a recipe for an unhappy ending. It is on this premise that "Top Dog / Underdog" revolves, ever so quietly, and the story unravels, ever so painfully.
The St. Louis Actors' Studio certainly doesn't lack ambition, as evidenced by the decision to devote a full month to a slate of new, unproven works. The first part of the festival set the tone with assertive, contemporary shows that bristled with tension and energy. The company's production of the second series of new short plays fully demonstrates that commitment to previously untested material and ideas as well as emerging playwrights.
The St. Louis Actors' Studio kicks off its inaugural "LaBute New Theater Festival," part one, with five well-written, well-performed new works that pack a punch. Each piece features contemporary persons in contemporary settings exploring the fine art of living, and the selection committee is to be commended on their choices.
Not everyone enjoys a monologue-based show, but I find that when done well, monologues offer an actor a chance to really develop character and story. The St. Louis Actors’ Studio production of Alan Bennett's “Talking Heads,” a selection of three monologues from the series of the same name originally airing on the BBC, takes a straightforward approach to its presentation that largely works.
Samuel Becket's "Waiting for Godot" is considered one of the masterpieces of modern theater and yet it is performed rarely. St. Louis Actor's Studio's production, directed by Bobby Miller, has some good moments but does not, in the end, reveal to the audience why this piece of work is considered so great.
Carrot, the titular canine in Daniel Damiano's "Day of the Dog," the world premiere of which is being presented by St. Louis Actors' Studio, is a German Shepherd mix and the family pet of accountant Paul and interior designer Julianne. He never appears on stage, but his presence--and his problem--are obvious as soon as the lights go up and Paul enters with heavily bandaged arms and hands.