Archive for April, 2014

Two Local Icons- Linda Kennedy And Upstream Theatre Bring Ethereal Play, “Windmill Baby,” To Life

April 28, 2014
Linda Kennedy as Maymay portraying Wunman during "Windmill Baby" at Upstream Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Linda Kennedy as Maymay portraying Wunman during “Windmill Baby” at Upstream Theatre. Photo: Peter Wochniak

Continuing their mini-Australian theatre festival that started with the powerful “Forget Me Not” a few months ago, Upstream now presents a magical yet visceral production of David Milroy’s “Windmill Baby.” Set in the outback at a station where cattle are tended to mainly by aboriginal men and women who work side by side, the story unfolds in flashbacks by our main character, Maymay Starr. She revisits the station 40 years after she toiled there and lived a meagre yet colorful life. The only modern interruption to the story is the occasional ring of her cell phone as her daughter tries to make sure she’s safe and sound. Although her ramblings often question the “sound” part of her current existence, she gives us a vivid tale of what life was like those many years ago and the life, love and tragedy that takes place.

Linda Kennedy as Maymay Starr in Upstream Theatre's "Windmill Baby." Photo: John Lamb

Linda Kennedy as Maymay Starr in Upstream Theatre’s “Windmill Baby.” Photo: Peter Wochnicak

Linda Kennedy, best known for her work as Artistic Associate Director at the Black Rep, has graced other local stages as well and always brings a dynamic to her roles that makes her a true icon in local theatre circles. This is a marvelous portrayal and, although a one-woman show, she creates a series of unforgettable characters that surrounded her life in those days at the station. As she first discovers a washtub with laundry of her Missus left there supposedly for those 40 years, she begins to hang the bloomers and other items on a clothes line that her husband put up for her those years ago. She begins to tell us about her time there and plays the people who surrounded her including the proper yet kind Missus, her own mother, her husband Malvern and the crippled Wunman. Born the first of twins, he came out with a withered arm and disfigured leg while his twin- Tuman, born perfect, soon died. Wunman becomes her best friend and confidante, planting a garden to which she contributes to and sharing most of her joys and sorrows.

There’s also the often vindictive Boss, Sally- who she locks horns with in the battle to win Malvern, the country doctor and even Wunman’s dog, Skitchim who plays an important role later in the story. Through voice inflection, body language and sometimes just a look from that face full of emotion, Ms. Kennedy moves from one character to the next in flawless fashion. Her story is humorous and she even gets an audience member on stage at one point to tell one of her many anecdotes face to face. It’s a marvelous evening that entertains, shocks and touches the heart. The Windmill baby (or babies) involved reveal some horrible facts of the treatment of Aboriginal people that still exists today and the final reveal is also quite a surprise that includes a powerful tribute and perhaps tradition that closes the show.

Maymay clutches the "Windmill Baby" at Upstream Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Maymay clutches the “Windmill Baby” at Upstream Theatre. Photo: Peter Wochnicak

As in so many Upstream productions, music plays an integral part. Talented artist Farshid Soltanshahi returns to play various instruments (some of his own invention) to accompany the many stories this wise old spirit tells. Patrick Huber’s scenic design brings a vastness to the small Kranzberg stage. It includes the massive lover half of the windmill along with a small shack and several other well-weathered set pieces with the Australian outback looming in the background. To enhance this setting tony Anselmo’s lighting design is perfect and includes a marvelous effect thrown on the wall behind the musician. A gobo shows the shadow of the windmill blades at rest and, at particular moments throughout the performance, those blades slowly rotate. It’s a mesmerizing effect and special kudos to Technical Director Mark Feazel for bringing all of these elements together and transporting us to this very special place. Keaton Treece is also to be commended for a workable and effective costume design for Maymay.

Director Philip Boehm is truly a magician. He has brought so many U.S. premieres to Upstream and they are all special in their own way. But “Windmill Baby” takes us on a journey that is not only magical, it is inspiring as well. Call Upstream Theatre at 314-863-4999 or contact them at upstreamtheater@sbcglobal.net for tickets or more information. “Windmill Baby” runs through May 11th.

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“Falling” In Love Again At Mustard Seed Theatre

April 14, 2014

fall-posterYou’ll excuse the Marlene Dietrich reference, but Mustard Seed’s Artistic Director, Deanna Jent, has brought her wonderful play, “Falling” back to town after it has been off-Broadway and numerous venues throughout the country. Now a property of Samuel French, “Falling” has gained praise and support from audiences and advocates of autism awareness everywhere. The important thing about this play is that it for the general audience and, despite being a visceral plea for a better understanding of autism and coping with a family member who can turn destructive in a moment, it appeals on a more conventional level for those not dealing with it on a daily basis. Directing her own play, Jent has an older son with autism so she speaks from experience. Reuniting (almost) the Fall, 2011 cast from her initial production, “Falling” proves just as powerful and leaves no doubt why this play has been universally accepted and praised for its frank and honest portrayal.

Greg Johnston as Bill consoles Michelle Hand as Tami as Daniel Lanier as Josh calms down in the background. Photo: John Lamb

Greg Johnston as Bill consoles Michelle Hand as Tami as Daniel Lanier as Josh calms down in the background. Photo: John Lamb

Looking over some notes from that first production, I noted the power and the relevance of the show as both a theatrical presentation and as a seldom seen look for most of us of what this debilitating condition can cause. As she states in the play, there can be months of calm and then sudden outbursts of anger as it seems to come in cycles that have no rhyme or reason. Josh, the young man in the play, has obvious developmental problems that keeps the whole family on edge. His sister, Lisa, is afraid of him and the husband, Bill, is very good at coping and calming Josh down but also has reservations about him continuing to live under their roof. The mother, Tami, is vacillating about sending him to a facility that cares for severe autism patients because she realizes the risks involved- even though she takes the brunt of the anger during the play. She knows that by staying at home, he will get the love and attention he needs. Also involved is a visit from Bill’s bible-thumping mother, Sue, who quickly learns the dangers the family is in with Josh’s sudden and often violent outbursts.

Michelle Hand as Tami tries to get between Daniel Lanier as Josh and Carmen Russell as Sue in "Falling" at Mustard Seed Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Michelle Hand as Tami tries to get between Daniel Lanier as Josh and Carmen Russell as Sue in “Falling” at Mustard Seed Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Michelle Hand again is a marvel as Tami. Her mixture of sympathy and fear makes her the central figure that pivots the actions of the rest of the family. Her small stature makes the audience even more fearful when a particularly violent scene leads into a turning point for the play. Greg Johnston also shines in the role he created of the husband, Bill. It’s stunning how good he can be with his son realizing how Josh’s behavior is affecting his marriage and the well being of his family. Reprising her role of daughter Lisa is Katie Donnelly. She, as well, has learned to cope but her displays of anger show a teen-ager’s frustration of feeling like she’s “second best” while she also is convincing at showing real fear.

Michelle Hand as Tami tries to appease Daniel Lanier's Josh at Mustard Seed' production of "Falling." Photo: John Lamb

Michelle Hand as Tami tries to appease Daniel Lanier’s Josh at Mustard Seed’ production of “Falling.” Photo: John Lamb

Daniel Lanier has taken over the role of Josh and, though not quite as big and intimidating as the original Josh, he is superb in portraying the sudden “triggers” that send him from a clam and relaxed young man to a sometimes paranoid and somewhat dangerous figure. He is able to sustain this remarkable character throughout and is also particularly effective in a short sequence near play’s end. Rounding out the cast is the returning Carmen Russell as Bill’s mother. She has honed this character into a truly believable portrayal of a woman who believes faith is the answer to all problems only to have that faith shaken by her first-hand knowledge of what this family is going through.

Deanna Jent says in her program notes that she has dubbed this “Extreme Parenting” as the family tries to “tap dance through a mine field.” An apt description. John Stark’s set design again recreates this suburban home and has flipped 180 degrees from the last performance. Michael Sullivan’s lighting design enhances the action and Jane Sullivan’s costumes are right on the money. Working from a broad recreation of her own experience, playwright and director Deanna Jent has shown us once again why her play has been so successful. It takes luck, of course, but it was inevitable as her play is brilliantly constructed and looks to be a perennial favorite in regional, college and even community theaters for some time to come. This production is scheduled to run through May 4th but don’t be surprised- like the first time it played- to find it extended due to popular demand. Give Mustard Seed Theatre a call at 314-719-8060 or contact them at mustardseedtheatre.com for tickets or more information.

 

“Once” Has A Quiet Charm That Needs A More Cozy Venue

April 13, 2014

357.jpgMultiple Tony winner, “Once,” has finally made it to town but the Fox almost swallows up the charm and intimacy needed for such a delicate story. The cast of multi-talented entertainers is outstanding and the show itself is a bit corny but attractive enough to reel us in but the music telling the story is pretty but non-descript. In fact, the rousing Irish themes preceding the performance outshine the more subtle score that makes up the content of the show.

As in the original production, the pub onstage is open for business before the show and during intermission. The snaking line coming up one side the stage and meandering off the opposite side is long and an arduous way to snag a Guiness. A more intimate setting would allow for more of a mingle than a line-up (similar to when “Godspell” used to offer “wine” during intermission).

But on to the show itself- it’s a very low-key musical unlike more flamboyant Tony winners of the past. Boy meets Girl, Girl encourages deflated Boy’s ego and they live happily ever after. Literally. It’s boy (or in this case, Guy)- given a delightful interpretation by Stuart Ward who is playing one of his songs with his own guitar accompaniment when girl- an equally impressive performance by Dani de Waal- stumbles into the pub and it’s love at first sight. Not relishing his job as a vacuum cleaner repair man and part time busker, he is really feeling bad about himself until Girl comes on the scene and rescues him from the depth of despair. Shoring up his confidence and securing a recording studio, it may not bring fame and fortune, but it certainly brings love and a bit of happiness.

e528ef10c12311e38cf50002c9540046_8The unique aspect of this show is that the entire cast also plays onstage instruments- and they do it well. A lot of actors- particularly musical actors- have a background in playing one or more instruments, but it’s rare to see a group act and play with equal competence. Raymond Bokhour as Guy’s father and doubling on the mandolin is quite effective as is Donna Garner who plays Girl’s mother and spices up the Irish spirit on the ‘cordine and concertina. The entire cast pulls together for both playing and dancing throughout the evening.

The impressive Bob Crowley set design (he also did the costumes) won him a Tony as well and it adapts well to the Fox stage. It works well in moving in and out of the various scenes throughout the show but the focus remains on the pub that you wish you could visit every night to throw back few and listen to the music. The Natasha Katz lights enhance the action and the combined efforts of director John Tiffany and movement choreographer Steven Hoggett make this play move and bounce and even shine during the more intimate, quiet moments.

Originally a film, “Once” has a book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. It’s based, in fact, on their own love story. Although some of the tunes are melodic, they’re not particularly inspiring. They fit well into the sweet proceedings wrapping these two lovers together, but you’re not likely to leave the theatre humming these tunes. But there is a certain charm and substance about “Once” that’s hard to resist. It plays through April 20th at the Fabulous Fox and it’s worth a try simply because it’s an unconventional though very worthy Tony winner.

Scorching Hot “Cabaret” Sears Lasting Images Into The Brain As Stray Dog Defines The Musical

April 8, 2014
The Kit Kat Klub girls are indicative of what we're in store for in this wild production of "Cabaret" at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

The Kit Kat Klub girls are indicative of what we’re in store for in this wild production of “Cabaret” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Everyone knows the Emcee in “Cabaret” is androgynous- an outside observer- but I must say, Stray Dog Theatre and Lavonne Byers have turned that concept inside out with their scathing yet effective take on the musical that is almost ready for it’s AARP card. A female Emcee- hm-m. Could it work? How would they handle things like the “Two Ladies” number? Could a female convey the pain and joy that simultaneously work in a pre-Hitler Berlin that so resembles the fall of the Roman Empire? Those questions and more are answered in a highly evocative show that spreads itself all over the Tower Grove Abbey space and the audience that inhabits it.

This one’s based on the 1998 revival (which in turn was based on the 1993 Donmar Warehouse production in London) that featured Alan Cumming and offered a much grittier look at the 1930 New Year celebration in Berlin when no one saw what was coming with the sudden surge in “brownshirts” invading their streets, clubs and homes. A young, American aspiring novelist thrusts himself into the scene and, despite his warnings to all those who would listen, they all preferred to accept life as it was- or appeared to be. He and the worldly-wise Emcee appear to be the only people aware of imminent chaos and disaster.

 

Paula Stoff Dean as Sally and Paul Cereghino as Cliff in Stray Dog's "Cabaret." Photo: John Lamb

Paula Stoff Dean as Sally and Paul Cereghino as Cliff in Stray Dog’s “Cabaret.” Photo: John Lamb

Before the show even starts, the young girls and boys of the Kit Kat Klub stroll through the audience welcoming everyone while oozing sensuality out of every pore (and a lot of pores are exposed). The first sight of Lavonne Byers as the Emcee is quite a shock. Short hair and angular features make her the perfect “host” for the evening as she “Wilkomens” us to the club. Distinctly female yet offering that same ambiguous manner that everyone from Joel Grey to Mr. Cumming has created over the years. She simply captures us from that moment on and never lets go as (with the first time I saw it with Joel Grey at the old American Theatre) she pops up unexpectedly throughout the evening and in musical numbers and takes us aback with her surreptitious yet abrupt intrusion into every character’s life in the show. It’s an amazing performance. And that “Two Ladies” number? Don’t worry, it’s a surprise, but handled cleverly by two ladies and a man- but maybe not how you’d expect.

Jan Niehoff and Ken Haller as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz in "Cabaret" at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Jan Niehoff and Ken Haller as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz in “Cabaret” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Paula Stoff Dean is the lovable lunatic, Sally Bowles, who relishes shocking  people with her decadent lifestyle. Not only does she capture that devil-may-care attitude mixed with desperation but her singing voice is powerful enough to shake the rafters. Her version of the title number near show’s end is the most expressive and powerful rendition I think I’ve ever seen. As Cliff, the American writer who gets caught up in the whirling dervish world of Sally, Paul Cereghino gives him a life beyond the one normally portrayed. With only one song- a duet with Sally- and a bland character compared to the colorful people surrounding his life, he manages to make Cliff a viable part of the show and truly takes the role and runs with it. Michael Brightman is superb as the affable Ernst Ludwig who is all smiles and handshakes but soon reveals his political leanings which brings a whole new shade of grey to his character.

Emcee Lavonne Byers loudly proclaims "If You Could See Her Through My Eyes" at the Kit Kat Klub in Stray Dog's "Cabaret." Photo: John Lamb

Emcee Lavonne Byers loudly proclaims “If You Could See Her Through My Eyes” at the Kit Kat Klub in Stray Dog’s “Cabaret.” Photo: John Lamb

The elderly lovers, Cliff’s landlady Fraulein Schneider and her fruit vendor suitor, Herr Schultz are well played by Jan Niehoff and Ken Haller. Their duet, “It Couldn’t Please Me More,” is always a highlight of “Cabaret.” They do a clever bit trying to achieve harmony and finally get it “locked in” during the final phrase. Although her wig is a disaster and doesn’t help her achieve the proper age, it seems missteps with hair is the only recurring error I found in an otherwise flawless production. So many of the Kit Kat girls had hairstyles that would never have been seen in 1930’s Berlin. A delightful performance by Deborah Sharn as Fraulein Kost also shines and, since she is a powerful singer to boot, Director Justin Been has expanded her role to include a beautiful solo (German edition) of the classic “Married” number sung by Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. In addition, after a scratchy phonograph edition of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me,” she brings that number to life- which is usually performed by a young brownshirt in most productions. This one is no less chilling.

Lavonne Byers as the Emcee is supported by her "Two Ladies"- Jessica Tilghman and Michael Baird in "Cabaret" at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Lavonne Byers as the Emcee is supported by her “Two Ladies”- Jessica Tilghman and Michael Baird in “Cabaret” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Keith Thompson rounds out the major cast as the Kit Kat Klub owner, Max, who uses and abuses Sally to no end. But the entire cast and chorus of performers at the club are outstanding. As I said, they roam the audience and even entertain before the show and at intermission and mingle as servers at certain points throughout the show. Rather than being a distraction, it seems natural as they attend the few small tables set up in front of the Stray Dog elevated stage and the runway set up for this show. The Zachary Sefaniak choreography emphasizes their talents with some very clever routines that fit right into the raunchier version that this show brings to us. In addition, Chris Petersen’s musical direction is right in tune with the proceedings with an extended band that brings that raw feel to the show as well.

Robert J. Lippert (Circle Award winner) brings the proper amount of decadence to the clever set and, combined with the smooth scene changes provided by members of the Kit Kat Klub, makes for a wonderful in character transition from one scene to the next (a definite highlight since I just saw a horrible example of how not to change scenery earlier in the week-end). Tyler Duenow’s lights are also a standout providing just the proper mood from moment to moment. The costume design of Alexandra Scibetta Quigley also makes a definite statement and fits in beautifully to complete the overall mood to the show.

Paula Stoff Dean sings the iconic title song during Stray Dog's "Cabaret." Photo: John Lamb

Paula Stoff Dean sings the iconic title song during Stray Dog’s “Cabaret.” Photo: John Lamb

Justin Been’s direction is beyond words. He has brought a whole new dimension to this classic show. From the bold choice of a woman Emcee to the powerful final scene, this show is packed with little gems that help define what the impending tragedy of this time in Europe was all about. Every movement, every line has a meaning. With no curtain call, the shocking finale leaves the audience stunned. Lights still up on stage, house light come up and people are still rooted to their seats. Some can’t believe what they’ve just experienced- others, perhaps, can’t believe (or won’t believe) the show is over. It’s not until Artistic Director of Stray Dog, Gary Bell, rolls up that iconic door that separates theatre space from lobby space that (the night I attended anyway) the audience members were finally shaken into their standing ovation.

This is one “Cabaret” and one show you can’t miss this year. Of course, the opening week-end was sold out and I expect that the rest of the run will be the same. I won’t be surprised if the run is extended or extra performances are added. Right now it’s scheduled to run through April 19th. Get in on what everyone is raving about by calling 314-865-1995 or contact them at straydogtheatre.org to get tickets or get more information.

 

 

Long, Noisy Set Changes Spoil An Otherwise Fine Production At WEPG’s “Rx”

April 7, 2014
Laura Singleton and Jeff Kargus in West End Players Guild's production of "Rx." Photo: John Lamb

Laura Singleton and Jeff Kargus in West End Players Guild’s production of “Rx.” Photo: John Lamb

Kate Fodor has written a cute little play about the excess of drugs in our lives today and turned it into a love story that is peppered with goofy characters, some good laughs and maybe a moral or two. West End Players Guild has cast it fairly well and the actors do a splendid job of bringing the story to life on stage. The only problem with “Rx” is a technical one- how to quickly and quietly move from one scene  to the next in a play that has about seven or eight locale changes in both acts. They didn’t solve this problem and, as a consequence, the erratic and lengthy breaks between scenes caused a bit of a stir in the audience and broke the concentration and rhythm of the play.

Laura Singleton is splendid as Meena, a neurotic editor of a farm animal magazine who hates her job. Her expressive face and body language give us some priceless moments as she reacts to the absurdity of some of the situations she’s placed in. As the play opens, she is being interviewed for entry into a program testing a new drug to help you cope with and enjoy your work. The doctor taking her information is an insecure nebbish named Phil portrayed brilliantly by Jeff Kargus. You can almost see the sparks fly immediately and before you can get through the first, arduous scene change, they’ve broken all the rules of the test cases by falling in love.

John Lampe and Jeff Kargus in "Rx" at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

John Lampe and Jeff Kargus in “Rx” at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

His boss, Allison, is  given a tough-as-nails performance by Beth Davis. She’s no-nonsense with a smoldering sexuality that can’t help but influence her every action. Matt Hanify is an office geek, Simon, who actually seems to enjoy rooting around for the best stories about swine and cattle. His sudden burst of behavior with Meena sets the stage for a “guess where this is going” second act. John Lampe plays dual roles but is superb as the science expert, Ed, who has a penchant for inadvertently blowing things up and almost consistently getting things wrong. Rounding out the cast is Suzanne Greenwald as an elderly widow who starts to haunt the large ladies lingerie department of the local Bon Ton when she meets and starts to carry on conversations with Meena. The exchanges seem to help both ladies get through the rough patches in their lives.

Laura Singleton consoles Suzanne Greenwald in "Rx" at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

Laura Singleton consoles Suzanne Greenwald in “Rx” at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

That department store setting is the major problem with set changes in this play. Instead of a roll-on prop for the lingerie bins, several scene changers must carry on a huge prop that must be lifted onto an elevated stage in front of the proscenium. Not only does it make for long pauses in the story, it’s a noisy process that disrupts the magic of the moment. West End Players Guild has a unique space and, with the small proscenium stage, they often use the front of the space for additional scenes in plays. Although they usually work well, this one does not. Another problem is with multiple costume changes that also hinders the progress of a play that needs to be more like a farce  than the slow-paced production it has become. Director Renee Sevier-Monsey has done a remarkable job with the clever script but she really should have worked even more closely with set designer Ethan Dudenhoeffer to streamline the scene changes. Sevier-Monsey also designed a fine lighting design that works well within the parameters of the play and the Jean Heckman costumes are fine.

It’s a real shame because the play and the outcome are very funny and sweet. With absurd characters and implausible but laughable situations, it is a very pleasant production. The actors work hard and do a great job, but those tech problems just slow things down too much to allow an audience time to get into and enjoy the delightful show that is going on onstage. “Rx” runs through April 13th. Contact them at westendplayers.org for tickets or more information.

St. Louis Shakespeare Rolls Out A Solid “Romeo And Juliet”

April 2, 2014
Emily Jackoway and Leo Ramsey during the balcony scene of "Romeo And Juliet" at St. Louis Shakespeare. Photo: Brian Peters

Emily Jackoway and Leo Ramsey during the balcony scene of “Romeo And Juliet” at St. Louis Shakespeare. Photo: Brian Peters

With age-appropriate leads, spirited direction, and a bit more humor than we’re used to in “Romeo And Juliet,” St. Louis Shakespeare delivers a good, solid production of the story of the star-crossed lovers and the family feud surrounding them. As in any production of this Shakespeare tragedy, the second act seems to overstay its welcome, but the most admirable cast and some more light touches of humor help us get through it all until the final, inevitable outcome.

Roger Erb as Tybalt and Charlie Barron as Mercutio in St. Louis Shakespeare's production of "Romeo And Juliet." Photo: Brian Peters

Roger Erb as Tybalt and Charlie Barron as Mercutio in St. Louis Shakespeare’s production of “Romeo And Juliet.” Photo: Brian Peters

Young lovers Romeo, played with a confident swagger by Leo Ramsey and Juliet, with a sweet innocence portrayed by Emily Jackoway, are closer to the real ages as described in the script and they both handle the difficult roles with aplomb. The balcony scene, in particular becomes a bit more frivolous but closer to the reality you’d expect from two such eager young lovers with hormones running wild and the unmistakeable pain in the need to part from each other- even for a moment. Brian Kappler and Andrew J. Weber team up for playful fun with their friend, Romeo and Charlie Barron is wonderful as the trustworthy Mercutio. Also turning in a solid performance is Roger Erb as Tybalt from the House of Capulet who, like Mercutio, meets an early end as Act I comes to a close.

Leo Ramsey as Romeo mourns the passing of Juliet as portrayed by Emily Jackoway in "Romeo And Juliet" at St. Louis Shakespeare. Photo: Brian Peters

Leo Ramsey as Romeo mourns the passing of Juliet as portrayed by Emily Jackoway in “Romeo And Juliet” at St. Louis Shakespeare. Photo: Brian Peters

Jamie Eros is perfect as the caring but stern Nurse who tries to guide Juliet through the complications of young infatuation. Brian J. Rolf and Christi Mitchel as Lord and Lady Capulet and Chuck Winning and Cindy Lewis as the Montague’s all deliver the goods as the heads of the feuding households. Paul Devine, despite more than a few fumbles with lines on opening night, is a good Friar Lawrence. He mixes wit and wisdom in equal doses in dealing with the headstrong young Romeo. Paul Edwards gives us a strange but somehow effective portrayal of young Paris showing perhaps a bit too much of his feminine side. As a prospective suitor for Juliet, he does not exactly impress the young princess as does the bravado and passion of young Romeo. The rest of the ensemble also does fine work in keeping with the feel and tenor of the period.

Director Suki Peters does a masterful job of controlling the core of the tragedy while bringing us a more light-hearted and down to earth portrayal of the folks in fair Verona. It’s a spirited production that wins us over even as we await the tragedies that befall so many members of both sides of the families-particularly in the surprise outcome of the fight between Romeo and Tybalt. Assistant Director and Fight Choreographer Brian Peters does a stunning job as well- bringing the strength and tension of the various bouts of swordplay encompassing the entire stage and making it all very realistic. Add to that the contribution of Jamie Eros as choreographer.

The young lovers of St. Louis Shakespeare's "Romeo And Juliet." Photo: Brian Peters

The young lovers of St. Louis Shakespeare’s “Romeo And Juliet.” Photo: Brian Peters

Kudos as well to the technical crew including Chuck Winning’s handsome set design with the fountain at center stage which comes in play at the end of Act I in particular and then becomes the burial pyre for the second act. Lighting designer Jaime Zayas also does a fine job including occasional projections to help set the locations and a very fine sound design from Josh Cook.

It’s all over too soon, however as this will be the final week-end of “Romeo And Juliet” for St. Louis Shakespeare. The final performance will be on Sunday, April 6th. Contact St. Louis Shakespeare at 314-361-5664 for tickets or more information.