Thursday, 31 January 2019 22:20

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 1, 2019

Written by 
"Avenue Q" at Westport "Avenue Q" at Westport Photo by John Flack

This week's new entries feature an adult musical at Westport, an update of Merchant of Venice at New Jewish, and an intellectual comedy at Upstream.

 


New This Week:


Avenue Q
Photo by John Flack
 

The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents the musical Avenue Q running through March 3. "Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, AVENUE Q is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the timeless story of a bright-eyed college grad named Princeton. When he arrives in the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account, he has to move into a shabby apartment all the way out on AVENUE Q. Still, the neighbors seem nice. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Lucy (the slut), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet entrepreneur), superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) and other new friends! Together, they struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: www.playhouseatwestport.com.

My take: A smart, hip, and very funny parody of Sesame Street, Avenue Q is also an entertaining (if R-rated) story of college-educated twentysomethings--both flesh and foam rubber--coming to grips with the economic, political and sexual facts of life. The show is good, not-so-clean fun and always worth seeing. This production is "outrageously funny" (Calvin Wilson, STLToday). "A blend of national and local talent brings zest, exquisite precision and rampant enthusiasm to this delightful version of the Tony Award-winning musical melange of puppeteered optimism at its finest," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News.


District Merchants
Photo by Eric Woolsey

New Jewish Theater presents District Merchants: An Uneasy Comedy Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm through February 10. "In District Merchants, love, litigation, deep passions and predatory lending are taken to a new level. The play wades fearlessly into the complexities of life in America. It is set among Black and Jewish populations in an imagined time and place, simultaneously Shakespearean and post- Civil War Washington, D.C. In Posner's reimagining, the play becomes less about the quality of mercy and more about how flexible a supposedly egalitarian society can be to the varied tribes struggling to find partners in America. Aaron Posner expertly blends humor, emotional truths and topics that make people think. He is able to create characters who are deeply flawed, like we are. In his “uneasy” comedy, he wants us to look at a snapshot in time, the Reconstruction Era, but what he has written is relevant to audiences today." Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283.

My take: This ingenious update of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is "a richly entertaining re-imagining of a play that’s at once timeless and timely" (Calvin Wilson, STLToday). "This is not your high school English teacher's Merchant of Venice," writes Richard Green at TalkinBroadway.com. "Aaron Posner's District Merchants is still a tale of love's many obstacles (most of them funny) and also of the poisonous nature of grievance (decidedly not funny). But this time it's all a lot more personal, and present, and maybe even political, at The New Jewish Theatre."


Wittenberg
Photo by ProPhotoSTL

Upstream Theater presents the St. Louis premiere of Wittenberg Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm (except for February 10, which is at 2 pm) through February 10. "It's October 1517, and the new fall semester at the University of Wittenberg finds certain members of the faculty and student body at personal and professional crossroads. Hamlet (senior, class of 1518) is returning from a summer in Poland spent studying astronomy, where he has come in contact with a revolutionary scientific theory that threatens the very order of the universe, resulting in psychic trauma and a crisis of faith for him. His teacher and mentor John Faustus (Professor of Philosophy) has decided at long last to make an honest woman of his paramour, Helen, a former nun who is now one of the Continent's most sought-after courtesans. And Faustus' colleague and Hamlet's instructor and priest, Martin Luther (Professor of Theology), is dealing with the spiritual and medical consequences of his long-simmering outrage at certain abusive practices of the Church. Tavern disputes, tennis duels, 16th century lounge hits, and the slings and arrows of outrageous wit will tickle your brain into overdrive." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.

My take: Hamlet meets Martin Luther, with Dr. Faustus and Helen of Troy in the mix as well. It's the sort of idea that might make for an extended comic sketch, but apparently playwright David Davalos has turned it into "a whimsical journey to 16th century Germany" that "offers tasty food for thought" (Mark Bretz, Ladue News). Ann Lemmons Pollack writes that Wittenberg is "all about wit, both mental agility and humor, and we get plenty of both here." Go thou and enjoy.

Held Over:


The Wolves
Jon Gitchoff

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the St. Louis premiere of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe through February 3. "Nine teenage girls prepare for battle on a soccer field. As they stretch and warm up together, the teammates' nonstop banter reveals how a collection of disparate personalities bonds to form a team. With its engrossing flow of dialogue and authentic characters, DeLappe's acclaimed new play distills the raw passion, confusion and wonder of adolescence into exhilarating theatre." Performances take place in the studio theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: "Director Melissa Rain Anderson," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "shepherds her smartly collected cast in a whimsical ensemble effort which captures the spontaneity of youth with poignancy, charm and frequently funny dialogue in refreshing fashion." "DeLappe has an original voice that cries out to be heard," says Calvin Wilson at STLToday, "and 'The Wolves' is an experience unlike anything you've seen before." The studio theatre season at the Rep, brief though it may be, consistently delivers high quality theatre in an intimate setting.

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