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.
The MUNY's current production of "Grease" is light, frothy, nostalgic fun. The music has the snappy, upbeat feel of early rock, and the dancing, costumes and vernacular dialogue are evocative of the period.
Max and Louie Productions' staging of Doug Wright's "Quills" is a deliciously inventive play weighing our decidedly human fascination with social and sexual mores against the lengths society will go to in the attempt to stifle the works of artists who push the envelope or in other ways make us nervous.
The St. Louis Actors' Studio once again features the works of established and emerging playwrights in its annual month-long festival of new plays, the "LaBute New Theater Festival," with four works produced for the second half of the festival. Running through August 3, 2014, the plays in part two represent the strongest productions of the festival and include Neil LaBute's "Here We Go round the Mulberry Bush," which had its world premier during part one.
Stray Dog Theater's production of "Funny Girl" is an ambitious undertaking -- the leading role is incredibly difficult, a demanding part that requires exceptional vocal range and power, spot-on comic timing and an actress willing to play up her less glamorous side. And the supporting cast must include top-notch dancers, strong voiced character actors and a leading man with incredible charisma.