Archive for January, 2015

“And The St. Louis Theatre Circle Award Goes To…” Here’s The List Of The 2015 Nominees

January 30, 2015

theater circle logo 2013-01-19 at 7.03.59 AMThe results are in and now we just have to wait until March 23 for the Third Annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony to find out who takes the top prize in each category. The nominees cover a broad range of theaters, actors, directors and technical wizards in our area- a rich and robust field of talent. The totals this year include 23 for the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (18 on the Mainstage and 5 in the Studio), 21 for the Muny. Stages St. Louis racks up 15 and then New Line Theatre and Stray Dog Theatre come in with 14 each. New Jewish Theatre at 12 and St. Louis Actors’ Studio at 10 fill out the double digit entries. St. Louis Shakespeare and Hot City Theatre both have 8 nominations and Insight Theatre has 6. The Shakespeare Festival, R-S Theatrics and newbie Sudden View Productions have 4 each and four venues come in with 2 each- The Black Rep, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, Upstream Theatre and Max & Louie Productions. Finally, with one nomination each are Mustard Seed Theatre, Dramatic License and two new kids on the block, November Theatre Company and Blue Rose Stage Collective.

Allen's Alley picThe awards ceremony will again be at COCA on Monday, March 23rd. Tickets remain at $15 and a buffet will be available at an extra charge before the ceremony provided by Michael Brightman. All details are available at the St. Louis Theatre Circle website and we hope to see you all there to raise a glass to all of the nominees and everyone involved in this energetic theatre community in our town.

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy

All in the Timing, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

 

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Caroline Amos, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Nancy Lewis, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Ruth Pferdehirt, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Jamie Pitt, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Donna Weinsting, Chancers, Max & Louie Productions

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Paul Cereghino, The Little Dog Laughed, Stray Dog Theatre

Joneal Joplin, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Michael James Reed, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Ben Ritchie, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Evan Zes, One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

 

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy

Sarajane Alverson, The Little Dog Laughed, Stray Dog Theatre

Nicole Angeli, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Nancy Bell, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Teresa Doggett, Shirley Valentine, Dramatic License Productions

Dale Hodges, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

 

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy

Ted Gregory, Quills, Max & Louie Productions

Raymond McAnally, One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Ben Nordstrom, Reality, HotCity Theatre

Michael James Reed, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Jared Sanz-Agero, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

 

Outstanding Director of a Comedy

Paul Mason Barnes, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Elizabeth Helman, All in the Timing, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Bobby Miller, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Suki Peters, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Edward Stern, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

 

Outstanding Production of a Comedy

All in the Timing, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

 

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama

Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Eat Your Heart Out, R-S Theatrics

The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

The Price, New Jewish Theatre

 

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Katie Donnelly, Eat Your Heart Out, R-S Theatrics

Amy Loui, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Susan Pellegrino, A Kid Like Jake, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Susie Wall, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

Sharisa Whatley, A Raisin in the Sun, The Black Rep

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

Jason Contini, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

Gregory Fenner, The Whipping Man, New Jewish Theatre

Bobby Miller, The Price, New Jewish Theatre

Tim Schall, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

Eric Dean White, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

 

Outstanding Actress in a Drama

Andrea Frye, A Raisin in the Sun, The Black Rep

Linda Kennedy, Windmill Baby, Upstream Theater

Kate Levy, The Other Place, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Samantha Moyer, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Em Piro, The K of D: An Urban Legend, Blue Rose Stage Collective

 

Outstanding Actor in a Drama

Jim Butz, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

John Contini, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

John Flack, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

Bobby Miller, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Jerry Vogel, Forget Me Not, Upstream Theater

 

Outstanding Director of a Drama

Fred Abrahamse, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions

Gary Wayne Barker, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Bruce Longworth, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Wayne Loui, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

Marty Stanberry, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

 

Outstanding Production of a Drama

Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Eat Your Heart Out, R-S Theatrics

The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

The Price, New Jewish Theatre

 

Outstanding Set Design in a Play

Jim Burwinkel, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Michael Ganio, Other Desert Cities, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Rob Lippert, And Then There Were None, Stray Dog Theatre

Marcel Meyer, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions

Mark WIlson, The Price, New Jewish Theatre

 

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play

Eileen Engel, And Then There Were None, Stray Dog Theatre

Jennifer “JC” Krajicek, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Marcel Meyer, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions

Michele Friedman Siler, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Susan Branch Towne, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

 

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play

Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Patrick Huber, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions

John Lasiter, The Other Place, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Bess Moynihan, Mary Shelley Monster Show, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

John Wylie, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

 

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play

Justin Been, And Then There Were None, Stray Dog Theatre

Barry G. Funderburg, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Fitz Patton, The Other Place, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Rusty Wandall, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Rusty Wandall, Opus, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

 

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical

Rob Lippert, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Robert Mark Morgan, Seussical, The Muny

Michael Schweikardt, The Addams Family, The Muny

James Wolk, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

James Wolk, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

 

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical

Amy Clark, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Leon Dobkowski, Seussical, The Muny

Andrea Lauer, The Addams Family, The Muny

Sarah Porter and Marcy Wiegert, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Alexandra Scibetta Quigley, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

 

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical

Rob Denton, Seussical, The Muny

Tyler Duenow, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Rob Lippert, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Matthew McCarthy, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

Matthew McCarthy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

 

Outstanding Musical Director

Jeffrey Richard Carter, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Valerie Gebert, Seussical, The Muny

James Moore, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Chris Petersen, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Justin Smolik, Rent, New Line Theatre

 

Outstanding Choreographer

Stephen Bourneuf, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Denis Jones, Grease, The Muny

Gary John LaRosa, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

Ralph Perkins, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Zachary Stefaniak, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

 

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

Hands on a Hardbody, New Line Theatre

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Seussical, The Muny

 

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

Rachel Hanks, First Lady Suite, R-S Theatrics

Sara Kapner, The Addams Family, The Muny

Teressa Kindle, Grease, The Muny

Mamie Parris, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Sarah Porter, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Patrick Kelly, Assassins, November Theater Company

Rob McClure, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Joseph Medeiros, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Whit Reichert, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Luke Steingruby, Rent, New Line Theatre

 

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Lavonne Byers, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Kari Ely, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

Abigail Isom, Seussical, The Muny

Beth Leavel, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Larissa White, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

 

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Rob McClure, The Addams Family, The Muny

Ben Nordstrom, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Matt Pentecost, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Bruce Sabath, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

John Tartaglia, Seussical, The Muny

 

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Justin Been, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Michael Hamilton, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, Hands on a Hardbody, New Line Theatre

Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Rob Ruggiero, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

 

Outstanding Production of a Musical

Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Hands on a Hardbody, New Line Theatre

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Seussical, The Muny

 

Outstanding New Play

Jennifer Blackmer, Human Terrain, Mustard Seed Theatre

Rebecca Gilman, Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Nick Otten, Mary Shelley Monster Show, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Stephen Peirick, Four Sugars, Stray Dog Theatre

Lia Romeo, Reality, HotCity Theatre

 

Special Awards

Donna Northcott, St. Louis Shakespeare

Agnes Wilcox, Prison Performing Arts

 

 

Advertisements

“Safe House” Is A Gem Of A Production At The Rep Studio

January 29, 2015
Will Cobbs, Kelly Taffe, Daniel Morgan Shelley and Michael Sean McGuinness in "Safe House" at the Rep Studio. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Will Cobbs, Kelly Taffe, Daniel Morgan Shelley and Michael Sean McGuinness in “Safe House” at the Rep Studio. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

The stories of “free men (and women) of color” came to prominence a few years ago with the film “12 Years A Slave.” Now we see a searing example of one family and how they coped with being “free” in 1843 Kentucky in the Rep Studio production of “Safe House.” This Keith Josef Adkins script brings out so many emotions in the audience as two sides of the story open up and questions about what we each feel about true freedom are explored.

Daniel Morgan Shelley plies his cobbler trade in the opening scene of the Rep's Studio production of "Safe House." Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Daniel Morgan Shelley plies his cobbler trade in the opening scene of the Rep’s Studio production of “Safe House.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

The Pedigrews have a modest home that features a large, open, barn-like room that is the focal point. It even features a double barn door entry that, when the play opens, must be kept open at all times so the sheriff and his deputies can keep an eye on the family. Even though they are free people of color, they had been caught assisting true slaves traveling the underground railroad two years ago and are on probation for that indiscretion.

Michael Sean McGuinness as Bracken woos Kelly Taffe as Dorcas in "Safe House" at the Rep Studio. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Michael Sean McGuinness as Bracken woos Kelly Taffe as Dorcas in “Safe House” at the Rep Studio. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Daniel Morgan Shelley is Addison, the older brother opens the play dressed impeccably including a tall, stove-pipe hat as he plies his trade as a cobbler by going door to door to make or repair shoes in the community. He is determined to prove the worth of his family in order to eventually open his own shop in their home. In fact, that transformation starts to take place during the course of the play. His younger brother Frank, however, is ready to assist slaves who know of the help the family has provided in the past with their reputation of being a “safe house.” Will Cobbs is brash and stubborn as the would-be angel to these people who want to escape the oppression of the South.

Will Cobbs and Raina Houston in the Rep Studio production of "Safe House." Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Will Cobbs and Raina Houston in the Rep Studio production of “Safe House.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Kelly Taffe is superb as the facilitator in this family feud, Dorcas, who can see both sides of the story. She is also torn with doubt over a former school chum, Bracken, who is now deputized to check in on the family daily to make sure they are toeing the line. Michael Sean McGuinness plays Bracken- the white friend of the family who is torn between his obvious affection for Dorcas and his duty to (and fear of) the sheriff. Raina Houston is another local free person of color who is infatuated with Frank but must fend of the persistent advances of Addison. Finally, we have a great performance from Cassia Thompson as Roxie, a run away slave who comes to the Pedigrew household seeking asylum and help in continuing her route along the underground railroad.

Michael Sean McGuinness as Bracken is confronted by Daniel Morgan Shelley as Addison as Will Cobbs, as Frank, looks on. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Michael Sean McGuinness as Bracken is confronted by Daniel Morgan Shelley as Addison as Will Cobbs, as Frank, looks on. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

These lives intertwine to create tension and suspense throughout the play. Frank and Dorcas wind up hiding Roxie in the shed unbeknownst to Addison. Things erupt when Addison discovers her and is implicated when Bracken discovers the secret as well. The script is full of wonderful moments of triumph and tragedy and, as director Melissa Maxwell points out in her program notes, brings about the question of who is truly free. Everyone must answer to someone or is dependent on the loyalty and devotion of the other to reach their goals and dreams. It’s a beautiful story that unfolds in dramatic fashion but is filled with complex questions that don’t always get answered.

Kelly Taffe as Dorcas tries to communicate with Will Cobbs as Frank in "Safe House" at the Rep Studio. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Kelly Taffe as Dorcas tries to communicate with Will Cobbs as Frank in “Safe House” at the Rep Studio. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Besides the brilliant cast and outstanding direction in “Safe House,” we also have a wonderful technical crew that helps bring out the gritty but often ethereal feeling of the script. Peter and Margery Spack have designed a functional and beautiful set that is bathed in soft, ghostly lights by Mark Wilson. Myrna Colley-Lee’s costumes are period perfect and the unusual and effective original music and sound design by Scott O’Brien adds to the dichotomy of the hard-edged yet other-worldly story.

“Safe House” is a play that haunts days after seeing it. Thanks to a first rate cast and a solid and well-crafted script, this one is not to be missed. It plays at the Studio Theatre of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through February 8th. Call the box office at 314-968-4925 or contact the Rep at http://www.repstl.org for tickets or more information.

 

“Imagining Madoff” At New Jewish Theatre Tackles What Might Have Been

January 24, 2015
Bobby Miller and Jerry Vogel in "Imaging Madoff' at New Jewish Theatre. Photo: Eric Woolsey

Bobby Miller and Jerry Vogel in “Imaging Madoff’ at New Jewish Theatre. Photo: Eric Woolsey

The name of the play is, after all, “Imagining Madoff,” so we can take a lot of the dialogue and situations with a grain of salt. But there’s no doubt that this evil man did what he’s been accused of and we have that voice of truth interjecting the play at intervals in the form of his secretary and her testimony before the Securites and Exchange Commission. This helps keep us grounded as we enter the playwright’s version of what Bernie Madoff and one of his high profile clients may have been thinking and saying during their encounters leading up to the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time.

Jerry Vogel and Bobby Miller in the New Jewish Theatre production of "Imagining Madoff." Photo: Eric Woolsey

Jerry Vogel and Bobby Miller in the New Jewish Theatre production of “Imagining Madoff.” Photo: Eric Woolsey

It’s easy to see how this film-flam artist conned very influential A-list clients into trusting their money to him as he promised returns of astronomical proportions. But that’s what a Ponzi scheme does- it shows unlimited profits that encourage the clients to roll over their new found riches until finally they discover that they’ve gone bust and the Ponzi scheme operator has become wealthy.

Speaking of A-list- premiere acting and directing guru, Bobby Miller plays Bernie Madoff with charm that oozes out of every pore while we see- through his actions and thoughts- what a soul-less and conniving schemer he really is. Friend or foe, he treats everyone the same way. Even one of his best friends, Solomon Galkin (a thinly disguised version of noted author, lecturer, philosopher and champion of the Jewish cause Elie Wiesel), becomes a target as he begs to be brought into Bernie’s world. Trying to discourage him and even on the brink of revealing his scheme to him, Madoff finally gives in and takes his friend’s money.

Jerry Vogel in "Imaging Madoff" at New Jewish Theatre. Photo: Eric Woolsey

Jerry Vogel in “Imaging Madoff” at New Jewish Theatre. Photo: Eric Woolsey

As we’re “imagining” what conversations may have taken place, we see the clever Kyra Bishop set design stretching through the center of the playing space with audience members on both sides. Divided into Madoff’s prison cell, the home of Solomon Galkin and the witness stand of the SEC, Kimberly Klearman’s lighting design points us into the various scenes while a screen behind the secretary occasionally brings us visual reinforcement of what’s going on during these imaginary dialogues and inner thoughts of those involved.

Jerry Vogel and Bobby Miller in "Imagining Madoff" at NJT. Photo: Eric Woolsey

Jerry Vogel and Bobby Miller in “Imagining Madoff” at NJT. Photo: Eric Woolsey

In a reunion, of sorts, of the late, great Theatre Project Company, Jerry Vogel joins Bobby Miller on stage as the direct opposite of Madoff in the form of Solomon Galkin. Discussions of religion, faith and good versus evil surprising erupt during their conversations. Even in those “voices in the head” moments that both experience throughout the play, we can see how this is truly a battle of forces at each end of the spectrum. Vogel and Miller together on stage is electric. Subtlety is the key to their performances as there are no big moments but small, intimate and telling moments that work off each other and their philosophies. It’s a lesson in acting that young and old actors alike can learn from.

Rounding out the cast is as wonderful performance by Julie Layton as Madoff’s secretary. Though never moving from her seat on the witness stand, she delivers a knock-out punch with insight’s into what she and the countless clients must have felt about Madoff and the ultimate shock of his eventual conviction. Director Lee Anne Matthews keeps this extended one-act moving despite the sometimes overly-heavy dialogue from playwright Deb Margolin. Matthews has the touch to keep this stream of consciousness feeling easy to follow as we jump from one moment to another.

Jerry Vogel and Bobby Miller in the New Jewish Theatre production of "Imagining Madoff." Photo: Eric Woolsey

Jerry Vogel and Bobby Miller in the New Jewish Theatre production of “Imagining Madoff.” Photo: Eric Woolsey

The two gentlemen discuss everything from baseball (Dwight Gooden) to the story of Abraham as they unintentionally get caught up in this whole good versus evil discussion from various viewpoints. Not sure if Madoff was really as clever as some of the things that come out of his mouth in this play, but it’s fascinating when he states that he’s “telling the truth in a false way.” And, although Miller delivers the dialogue in a crisp manner, his Madoff drawl prompts him to state at one time that “even my face mumbles.” Some of the dialogue does tend to bog down at times and the playwright doesn’t really explain the unusual scene when Galkin ties up Madoff with leather pouches and straps- evidently a Jewish prayer ritual called phylacteries. In the hands of these three pros, however, “Imagining Madoff” is a fascinating, if disturbing, look into one of the most cold-hearted criminals in recent history.

This look into the mind- imagined or not- of Bernie Madoff makes for truly gripping theatre. Catch “Imagining Madoff” at New Jewish Theatre through February 8th. Call them at 314-442-3283 for tickets or more information on “Imagining Madoff” or the rest of their season.

 

“Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” Packs A Punch 48 Years Later As The Stage Version Hits The Rep

January 10, 2015
Richard Prioleau and Shannon Marie Sullivan as John and Joanna in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Richard Prioleau and Shannon Marie Sullivan as John and Joanna in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Still relevant after all these years but for different reasons, the stage adaptation of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” hits the ground running at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis that opens the New Year on the Mainstage. Still set in 1967, some of the gasps from dialogue and situations from that era have turned into laughs for this audience. Not to say the impact isn’t still there because, although we’ve moved into a different era, the not-so-gentle reminders of how different the races are have been all around us in recent months. Although marriage equality has taken on a much different meaning these days involving same-sex couples with, thankfully, ever increasing success, there are still those who cringe today at interracial couples just as a much bigger audience did when “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” was nominated for the Best Picture oscar 48 years ago.

Anderson Matthews as Matt scuffles with his old friend, Monsignor Ryan, played by Joneal Joplin at the Rep's "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner." Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Anderson Matthews as Matt scuffles with his old friend, Monsignor Ryan, played by Joneal Joplin at the Rep’s “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Playwright Todd Kreidler has made very few changes from the original William Rose screenplay and that has garnered these very different reactions today- mostly during the First Act. Unfortunately that also leads to a very preachy and, at times, unrealistic turn-around in both families’ attitudes in the short frame of time when John and Joanna announce their intentions to the extreme outrage (particularly from the fathers) to them all sitting down to dinner together. So Act Two may ring true from an historical perspective but it may seem a bit ludicrous to today’s audience. Still, it’s good to reminded of how compromise, understanding and love (of the couple and each family toward their children) can lead to a moment that’s bigger than the prejudices of two families.

Richard Prioleau as John, calls out his father, played by Leo Finnie in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" at the Rep. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Richard Prioleau as John, calls out his father, played by Leo Finnie in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” at the Rep. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Associate Artistic Director Seth Gordon has directed “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” with a keen eye for the original intent of the screenplay and how times have changed in the intervening years. The natural laughs are there and they flow as easily as those poignant moments when each character comes to the universal truth of what they are each dealing with. Kevin Depinet has designed a lovely set though, at times, the various levels and similarity of the eating and gathering spaces get in the way of the natural flow of the actors. Peter E. Sargent has brought a strong light design to the production and Myrna Colley-Lee’s costumes are period appropriate.

Inga Ballard as Tillie warns Richard Prioleau as John that she's watching him as the Rep presents "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner." Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Inga Ballard as Tillie warns Richard Prioleau as John that she’s watching him as the Rep presents “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

In these days when standing ovations seem to appear whether warranted or not, this cast does deserve one and they got it on opening night. Anderson Matthews, who I’ve praised and panned in the past over his many Rep performances, has done a remarkable job as Joanna’s father, Matt Drayton. As the rich, uptight newspaper editor, he displays a wide range of emotions and even brings out his inner Spencer Tracey during the final scene where he gathers all of the parties involved (a la Hercule Poirot) and almost shames them into adopting the right attitude to their respective children. As his wife, Christina, Margaret Daly is really the first to take the high road and accept her child’s declaration of true love. She takes on that spunky attitude even going so far as to put her best friend and valued worker in her art gallery in her place for her bigoted viewpoint.

Anderson Matthews as Matt tries to calm Leo Finnie and Perri Gaffney as John's father and mother during "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" at the Rep. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Anderson Matthews as Matt tries to calm Leo Finnie and Perri Gaffney as John’s father and mother during “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” at the Rep. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

As the young couple, Richard Prioleau and Shannon Marie Sullivan are outstanding. He makes John a very likable character and even eventually wins over the heart of the Drayton’s black maid, Tillie, who perceives him as a hustler. His impassioned outburst at his father at the end of one scene rivets the audience and prompts an almost stunned, delayed round of applause. Ms. Sullivan imbues her character with a passionate soul. She’s not going into this relationship with blinders on- she realizes the mountain of controversy they will have to overcome. It’s just been a short time since the Civil Rights Act and an even shorter time since the Supreme Court ruling the prohibition of mixed race couples unconstitutional. Which makes “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” even more relevant and her character even more daring for the times.

Elizabeth Ann Townsend and Margaret Daly as Hilary and Christina in the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis production of "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner." Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Elizabeth Ann Townsend and Margaret Daly as Hilary and Christina in the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis production of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

As John’s parents, Leo Finnie and Perri Gaffney are exceptional. His outrage is displayed in both voice and movement and he appears to be the most vocal in his disappointment in his son and his misguided notions. He even storms out of the house and only comes in later, fearing that the police may spot him sitting in his car and think he may be “casing the joint.” Ms. Gaffney is also disillusioned with her son’s choice but soon realizes the love between the two young people and softens.

Inga Ballard is superb as Tillie. Commenting- often under her breath- at the goings on in the household, she is forced to undergo a change in her attitude as well. Two other characters outside the households add to the mix. Elizabeth Ann Townsend is Christina’s friend and co-worker who makes her feelings known and takes it on herself to “fix” the situation. It’s a low-key but very strong performance as she takes on the role of the only real villain in the piece. And finally, the always remarkable Joneal Joplin plays Monsignor Ryan who unabashedly sides with the young couple from the get-go. This wily veteran of 93 (that’s right, 93) performances on Rep stages, takes a smaller role and makes it into a star turn. He wryly throws out clever lines throughout the evening.

Anderson Matthews as Matt shares his feelings in the final moments of "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Anderson Matthews as Matt shares his feelings in the final moments of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

This is not your father’s “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.” It looks the same (go back and re-watch the film) but, with a savvy audience and an even savvier production, this becomes a new, thoughtful play about race relations hidden inside a movie that shocked a generation almost fifty years ago. Call the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis box office at 314-968-4925 and get your tickets for this outstanding production. “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” plays on the Rep Mainstage through February 1st.