By Lynn Venhaus
And down the stretch we come! In the waning days of February, our shortest month, dusk is getting later and sure signs of spring are upon us. We can stay indoors for awhile longer — the weather is still frightful — but what awaits us inside a theater is juicy entertainment.
Whether you are in the mood for taut political dramas (“Farragut North,” “Oslo”) or classic Arthur Miller (“The Crucible”) or goofy foul-mouthed puppets, the St. Louis stages are showcasing some mighty fine talent.
Some local college theater departments are presenting classics, with Lindenwood taking on “Our Town” and St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley is tackling Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Washington University is presenting the first part of “Angels in America.”
Such ambition! Such enthusiasm! Catch it — Go See a Play!
“Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches”
Washington University Performing Arts Department
Feb. 22 – March 3
Thursdays and Fridays at 7 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 p.m.
What It’s About: Tony Kushner’s epic play focuses on politics, sex and religion, switching between realism and fantasy, dealing with the tragedy of AIDS to very spiritual territory.
Director: Henry Schvey
Starring: Louis Gordon and Alex Knapp are Prior and Louis, and Nathan Wetter and Stephanie Wright are Joe and Harper. Stephen Reaugh is Roy Cohn. Justin Wright is Prior’s ex-lover Belize, a nurse and former drag queen. Jacque Randolph is the Angel, Kelley Abell is Hannah, Joe’s mother. Helen Fox fills a variety of roles.
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza
Jan. 25 – March 17 (extended run)
What It’s About: Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of Princeton, a college grad who moves into the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account. He and his Avenue Q neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their life’s purpose.
Director: Lee Anne Mathews, with Music Director Charlie Mueller
Starring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger
Of Note: For mature audiences. “Avenue Q” won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
“By the Way…Meet Vera Stark”
Feb. 13 – 24
Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts
Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.
Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center
What It’s About: A new comedy from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Lynn Nottage, this draws upon the screwball films of the 1930s to take a funny and irreverent look at racial stereotypes in Hollywood. “By the Way…Meet Vera Stark” is a 70-year journey through the life of Vera Stark, a headstrong African-American maid and budding actress, and her tangled relationship with her boss, a white Hollywood star desperately grasping to hold on to her career.
Stray Dog Theatre
Feb. 7 – 23
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; special 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Feb. 17.
Tower Grove Abbey
What It’s About: Lies. Betrayal. Lust. In 1690s Salem, a young girl leads a Puritanical purge of witchcraft against a local farmer and his wife. As fear and excitement grow in the town, the accusations grow more ferocious and terrifying, until no one is safe, and the truth is obscured completely. Written by Arthur Miller and winner of the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play.
Starring: John Proctor: Graham Emmons, Elizabeth Proctor: Cynthia Pohlson, Abigail Williams: Alison Linderer, Mercy Lewis: Sienna DeSuza, Rebecca Nurse: Suzanne Greenwald, John Danforth: Joe Hanrahan, Ezekiel Cheever: Charles Heuvelman, John Hathorne: Jonathan Hey, Ann Putnam: Laura Kyro, Francis Nurse: Chuck Lavazzi, Susanna Walcott: Zoe Liu, Giles Corey: Gerry Love, Hopkins : Michael Maskus, Sarah Good: Liz Mischel, Thomas Putnam: Tom Moore, John Willard: Stephen Peirick, Rev. Samuel Parris: Ben Ritchie, Betty Parris: Avery Smith, John Hale: Abraham Shaw, Mary Warren: Chrissie Watkins and Tituba: Kelli Wright.
. “Farragut North”
St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Feb. 8 – 24
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m.
358 North Boyle
What It’s About: Stephen Bellamy is a wunderkind press secretary who has built a career that men twice his age would envy. During a tight presidential primary race, Stephen’s meteoric rise falls prey to the backroom politics of more seasoned operatives. “Farragut North” is a timely story about the lust for power and the costs one will endure to achieve it.
Director: Wayne Salomon
Starring: Spencer Sickmann, Peter Mayer, David Wassilak, Shannon Nara
The West End Grill and Pub will be open before and after the performances for drinks.
“The Hundred Dresses”
Metro Theatre Company
Feb. 3 – Feb. 25
The Grandel Theatre
What It’s About: Wanda Petronski, the new girl in Room 13, is a Polish immigrant who lives in a shabby house and doesn’t have any friends. Every day she wears the same faded blue dress, but tells her new class-mates that she has a hundred dresses at home. Her classmates tease Wanda about her hundred dresses until one day she disappears from school. As guilt overtakes the children, they decide to find out what happened to Wanda and to make amends. But is it too late? Bullying, friendship and forgiveness are at the center of this play adapted from the beloved Newbery Honor Book by Eleanor Estes.
Of Note: Eleanor Estes wrote down her childhood memories while recovering from tuberculosis and became a children’s author. Her many published works are widely read; but “The Hundred Dresses” continues to be the most popular, remaining in print since its publication in 1944. It was awarded the Newbery Honor in 1945. Speaking about “The Hundred Dresses” Eleanor Estes said, “I am holding up a mirror, and the scene reflected in the mirror is a true image of childhood, and the mirror, besides reflecting, also speaks and echoes the clear, profound, unpremeditated utterances, thoughts, and imageries of these children. I like to make children laugh or cry, to be moved in some way by my writing.
“Milk Like Sugar”
The Black Rep
Feb. 13 – March 3
What It’s About: Milk Like Sugar is an astute gut-wrenching observation of the impact of racism on African American youth. We see the cyclical nature of inherited trauma, the normalization of underfunded communities, the dire need for education that nurtures latent talent, childhood hunger, the categorization of Black youth as adults, and the injustice of the criminal system. The myth of self-determination and seeing those who cannot escape their circumstance as inferior is keeping us for mobilizing and tithing whatever time and talent we might have to give into those communities. This play affirms these children need us, just as much as we need them.
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Feb. 8 – March 3
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
130 Edgar Road, St. Louis
What It’s About: The winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play, this play by J.T. Rogers is set in 1993, when two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work towards peace. “Oslo” finds the unlikely story behind the historic event.
The drama explores the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible and focuses on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Director: Steven Woolf
Starring: Jim Poulos, Kathleen Wise, Rajesh Bose, Ben Graney, Jerry Vogel, Michael James Reed, Amro Salama, John Rensenhouse, Michelle Hand, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Jeff Cummings, Jim Shankman, Chaunery Kingsford Tanguay, Jack Theiling and Tom Wethington.
Of Note: “Oslo” is recommended for adult audiences. The show contains strong adult language and weighty discussions about global politics and diplomatic relations.
Feb. 21 – 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Scheidegger Center for the Arts, St. Charles campus
What It’s About: Thornton Wilder’s timeless drama of life in the mythical village of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, has become an American classic with universal appeal. It first appeared on Broadway in 1938.
Director: Patrice Foster
“The Rat Pack is Back”
Friday, February 22, at 7:30 p.m..
The Fox Theatre
527 North Grand in Grand Center
What It’s About: This spirited show recreates one of the famous “Summit at the Sands” nights when the swingin’, ring-a-ding group known as “The Rat Pack” was creating hipster legend with a free-wheeling, no-holds-barred nightclub act starring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop.
“A Streetcar Named Desire”
St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley
Feb. 21 – 24
Fisher Theatre, 3400 Pershall Road
The Q Collective
Feb. 21 – 23
Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive
What It’s About: A short-play festival and celebration of transgender, agender, non-binary, genderqueer, and genderfluid artists.