Bus Stop William Inge counts the ways of love in this homily-filled romantic comedy that should never work but always does. Among the passengers stranded in a Kansas snowstorm, Brad Lewandowski brings the right balance of swagger and innocence to Bo Decker, the young cowboy determined to whisk Cherie (Megan Wieder) off to his Montana ranch. Director Larry D. Quiggins has staged the 1955 three-act play without intermissions. The story plays out in one night without any set or costume changes, so why not? This way viewers don't have time to think about how thin some of the material is until the beguiling evening is over. Performed by Lindenwood University's theater department through April 29 at the Jelkyl Theatre, Roemer Hall, 209 South Kingshighway, St. Charles. Tickets are $10 ($8 for seniors, $6 for students). Call 636-949-4878 or visit www.lindenwood.edu.
King Hedley II Reviewed in this issue.
Menopause The Musical This sassy musical review parodies songs of the '60s and '70s, focusing on issues of aging and hormone imbalance (to give you an idea: A disco medley includes "Night Sweating" and "Stayin' Awake"). Sandra Benton is a powerhouse singer whose Tina Turner brings down the house. Brooke Davis scores with "Puff the Magic Dragon" and Lee Anne Mathews delivers a sultry "Tropical Hot Flash," while Rosemary Watts has fun with the raciest number, a tribute to self-love. The only problem with music director Joe Dreyer's slick 90 minutes is that it's too loud. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $44.50. Call 314-469-7529 or visit www.playhouseatwestport.com.
Polish Joke Reviewed in this issue.
The Shape of Things. Cross Pygmalion with Friends and throw in a dash of your favorite dominatrix and you'll be close to Neil LaBute's formula for this play. LaBute shares more than just a plot with Shaw; he emulates Shaw's pontification on social issues, but with less success. Still, this Saint Louis University production, energetically directed by Tom Martin, makes LaBute's overwritten dialogue seem almost natural, and Mark Wilson's fluid scenic and lighting design keeps the action moving. Tina Bruna and Billy Kelly share the most compelling scene at the end of Act One, when they discover a flame of passion. But LaBute's heavy-handed symbolism (the two main characters are named Adam and Evelyn) and forced irony (they attend Mercy College) weigh down the production. Try as he does to critique society's focus on the superficial, LaBute doesn't dig deep enough. Through April 29 in Xavier Hall, 3733 West Pine Mall (on the SLU campus). Call 314-977-3327 or visit www.slu.edu/theatre.
Violet If you missed this mesmerizing musical two years ago at Webster University, here's an opportunity to see another student production, completely different in approach yet equally satisfying. Based on Doris Betts' short story "The Ugliest Pilgrim," the plot concerns a disfigured 25-year-old country girl who sets out on a pilgrimage to Tulsa, where she expects a televangelist will heal her scar. Director Annamaria Pileggi imposes a gentle, almost minimalist approach on the material, allowing Carolina Reiter to render an exquisite title-role performance. The entire score by Jeanine Tesori is a joy, and the stirring final song, "Bring Me to Light," continues to thrill. Violet is a rare evening of theater, lovingly performed by the Washington University Performing Arts Department through April 30 at the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre in the Mallinckrodt Student Center at Washington University, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard. Tickets are $15 ($9 for seniors and students). Call 314-935-6543 or visit ascc.artsci.wustl.edu/~pad/.