Caroline, or Change Anita Jackson delivers a volcanic performance as an embittered household maid in this tale of temptation in southern Louisiana at the time of President Kennedy's assassination. Through much of the evening, Jackson simply smolders. But when she erupts, run for cover. Tony Kushner (Angels in America) brings a vivid imagination to his memory musical about growing up at a time when the entire nation was enduring traumatic change. In Kushner's world, the washing machine, dryer and radio all come to life and sing. Even so, it's the humans (especially P.J. Palmer as Kushner's alter ego and Bethany Barr as his estranged stepmother) that you're likely to remember longest. Original and provocative, Caroline, or Change begs to be seen by anyone who's not afraid of a little substance in their musical theater. Jointly produced by the Black Rep and HotCity Theatre through January 29 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17-$40. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.stlouisblackrep.com. (Dennis Brown)
I Am My Own Wife Wearing a black dress, pearls and orthopedic shoes, Arnie Burton portrays every character in this award-winning play about the intriguing life of German transvestite Charlotta von Mahlsdorf. As Charlotta survives both the Nazi and Stasi regimes, we meet members of her family, her colleagues, soldiers of all nationalities, American playwright Doug Wright and a host of international reporters. Each transition, physical posture and vocal inflection is sharply choreographed, and the ease with which Burton moves from one character to the next is stunning. His work coalesces with the outstanding design work of set and costume designer Marie Anne Chiment, lighting designer F. Mitchell Dana and sound designer Joe Payne. Director John Going crafts each moment of the play with exquisite detail, yielding a production that celebrates the power of theater and the mystery of each individual's unique perspective. Through February 3 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $13-$61 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org. (Deanna Jent)
Touch Reviewed in this issue.