New This Week:
Photo by John Gitchoff
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the drama Alabama Story running through January 27th. "A determined librarian and a segregationist senator face off over an innocent children’s book in 1959 Montgomery. Depicting the marriage of two rabbits – who happen to have different-colored fur – the story has Sen. E.W. Higgins calling for a book ban. But even as the pressure mounts, librarian Emily Wheelock Reed refuses to yield to censorship. Inspired by true events, Alabama Story is a stirring testament to free expression." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org,
My take: If recent political developments in this country have demonstrated anything, it's that the kind of lunatic racism and contempt for free thought depicted in this play is alive and very well. Critics have expressed reservations about the credibility of a fictional subplot in the show, but overall Alabama Story is getting a big thumbs-up. At STL Today, Calvin Wilson at Review STL, "bring these topics to life in a way that not only enlightens – yet entertains and truly captivates. It’s a show that should be seen, and one that we honestly need to see right now."
Photo by Peter Spack
The Black Rep presents the world premiere of Canfield Drive running through January 27. "In this World Premiere production, two high-powered news reporters from across the aisle are thrown together during a ratings frenzy in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. As they untangle the real cause of Brown's death, they struggle to keep their own secrets out of the spotlight. Created from diverse interviews of people from around the corner and around the world, Canfield Drive shines a light of hope as it wrestles with the greatest questions of our age. Canfield Drive, written by Kristen Adele Calhoun and Michael Thomas Walker, is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation and Development Fund Project co-commissioned by 651 Arts in partnership with The St. Louis Black Repertory Company, and NPN." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.
My take: No doubt about it, the death of Michael Brown turned over some big rocks in our national psyche, and some pretty nasty things came crawling out--in come cases, right into elected offices. As Paul Friswold writes in his review for the Riverfront Time, the playwrights "show more courage than most, walking right into the bloody mess of America's festering Achilles heel, racism. It's painful and honest and, ultimately, cathartic to watch because it doesn't take the easy way out." As Ann Lemmons Pollack writes on her blog, "this is our story. We have to be able to listen to what other people are saying about their experience. It may be uncomfortable to hear, but these things not only must be said, they must be heard."
Mariposa Artists presents a Master Teachers' Performance featuring Rick Jensen, Jeff Klitz, Charles Busch, and Lina Koutrakos on Thursday, January 17, at 8 pm, as well as a Participant Showcase on Sunday, January 20, at 3 pm. The shows are part of the Gateway Performance Workshop for cabaret and musical theatre singers and takes place at the .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.
My take: Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen have become familiar figures on the local cabaret scene over the years, first as regular faculty members in the St. Louis Cabaret Conference, and then as directors and advisers for many local performers. And, as I wrote in my review of their appearance at the Gaslight Theatre back in 2015, that fact that they have been performing as creative partners for decades, giving their work on stage the kind of easy camaraderie that comes only with experience. They're also excellent teachers, so I would expect great work from their students (many of whom have graced local stages int he past) as well.