The LaBute New Theater Festival cont.

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Reggie Pierre, Spencer Sickman and Ryan Lawson-Maeske screw with your mind in “How’s Bruno” at the LaBute New Theater Festival at St. Louis Actors’ Studio

That’s how it’s billed in the program at St. Louis Actors’ Studio- “LaBute New Theater Festival cont.” This one features, as usual, a return of the play specifically written for the festival by Neil LaBute and it’s nice to get to see it again and discover new meanings and nuances about the production. Then we have another absurdist play to round out the first act and a longer- almost an hour long- new production to finish the festival.

“Hate Crime” by Mr. LaBute and directed by John Pierson features a plot to kill a man’s new husband on the day of their wedding to be carried out by that man’s new lover. Chauncy Thomas and Greg Hunsaker are a powerful pair and you get subtle- and sometimes not so subtle- hints along the way that things are not going to go as planned. We don’t eventually find out just how things go if the wicked deed is carried out- but we get to speculate how we think it will all go.

“How’s Bruno” by Cary Pepper and directed by Nancy Bell is an absurdist look at how an innocent reply to a mistakenly sent email can cause a lot of problems. In this case, the silly dialogue and nonsensical situations are cause for a lot of laughs if not a lot of plot. Chauncy Thomas returns as a mysterious man in a jaunty hat who surreptitiously tries to pry information out of Spencer Sickmann who quickly becomes sorry he ever jokingly  answered the email. Reggie Pierre and Ryan Lawson-Maeske provide more Monty Python-esque humor including stunning double-takes. It fails to close out satisfactorily but offers a lot of laughs and sight gags along the way.

Finally we have “Sin Titulo” by Tearrance Chisholm. Linda Kennedy directs with a keen eye and a sly wink of the eye with some of the dialogue and situations. Patrice Foster and Reggie Pierre are a married couple who are still smarting from the Trump upset. Even their apartment shows signs still hanging around from the prior election in 2008 which they also worked on diligently. Her brother, a good performance by Jaz Tucker, is a complicated character who causes more trouble than he’s worth. In fact, the play is more of a character study than anything else as these three interact on several levels as they struggle with their own existence and the fear they have of what their country may suffer. It’s a solid effort that could probably stand a bit more rewriting to make it a more cohesive script. But it’s really worth it just to hear Mr. Pierre belting out the title songs of old favorites like “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons.”

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Jaz Tucker, Reggie Pierre and Patrice Foster try to resolve family and political matters in “Sin Titulo” at the St. Louis Actors’ Studio presentation of the LaBute New Theater Festival.

This series of plays at St. Louis Actor’s Studio and the LaBute New Theater Festival closes this week end- July 30th. So get down there and catch some of the best theatre and actors you’ll find in our area. You won’t regret it.

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