Best Nonmusical Theater Production

Fences, St. Louis Black Repertory Company

There have been some outstanding theatrical offerings since last summer, and some sad farewells. We bid adieu to The New Theatre (would someone negotiate with St. Louis University to use that handsome new space?) The St. Marcus Church closed its doors to terpsichorean and thespian tenants, and last year's promising Actors Renaissance Theatre didn't return this season. But let's talk about those companies and shows that stayed on the boards. Considering all the variables -- direction, acting, production values and so forth -- the Best Nonmusical Theater Production in St. Louis last year was Fences by the Black Rep. Held together by A.C. Smith's masterful performance as Troy Maxon, August Wilson's family drama was given a dynamic yet intricately nuanced production by director Ed De Shae at the Black Rep. Maxon is Willie Loman with a civil-service job, and this prizewinner uncovers a vanished moment in midcentury African-American history. There were other contenders for Best Nonmusical Production as well. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Wit mixed cancer therapy with a literary dissertation. This drama had plenty of humanity and some healing, making for a rare theatrical evening. Never the Sinner at the New Jewish Theatre was a stunning retelling of the Leopold and Loeb story in an intimately appropriate theater. Smart, smart, smart. Walt and Roy by Midnight Productions revealed the dark side of Mickey Mouse, as this two-man show explored the Disney brothers' Cain and Abel inclinations. Walt as a gun-toting drunk -- too perfect. Finally, Endgame, presented by the Washington University Performing Arts Department, was minimalist yet timed to a naval clock -- these students showed aplomb and ability few adult performers could have maintained during this physically demanding show. Beckett would have nodded approvingly.
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