Crowns Take a bunch of stories about "black women in church hats," add music and dance (and eye-popping hats), and you've got the recipe for a visually sumptuous but dramatically thin production. Like many of the larger, overly feathered hats, the play is in dire need of trimming. It devolves into a kind of Chicken Soup for the Hat-Lover's Soul, one story following another with no clear end in sight. The musical numbers are the strongest element; the fine choreography by Mercedes Ellington ranges from tribal dances to hip-hop and is performed with verve by the talented cast. But with a few exceptions, most of the stories seem rushed, almost as if director Pamela Hunt told the actors, "This show runs an hour and 40 minutes with no intermission -- go faster!" Only Denise M. Thimes and Chaundra Cameron manage to find the core of their characters and connect with the audience. Presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through April 15 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets $12-$58 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10 respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925. (Deanna Jent)
Defending the Caveman A sitcom-mentality stage play "experience" without the pesky problems of character relationships or plot. As a play, it's pretty good stand-up comedy -- especially for married couples who embody stereotypic gender roles. The solo character is a married guy trying to defend men from disdain. "It's not that guys are assholes," he explains. "They just come from a different culture." Creator Rob Becker romanticizes cavefolk as a model society: They respected and honored gender differences. Nobody called the cavewoman a bitch, nobody called the caveman an asshole (perhaps because language hadn't yet been invented?). Unfortunately the material doesn't really build. Cody Lyman (from Chicago's Second City) plays the Caveman. 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 $35-$39.50. Call 314-469-7529. (DJ)
Lobby Hero Reviewed in this issue.
Macbeth Director Fontaine Syer has relocated Shakespeare's grim tale about ambition run amok from its native Scotland to the killing sands of Sudan, where bleached skulls are heaped as high as in Hamlet. In this sere world, the gaping gashes on the castle wall do everything but bleed real blood. David Alan Anderson brings weight and substance to the title role. As Lady M, Elizabeth Van Dyke finds poignancy in a character who is too often simply unsympathetic. From the first scene to the last, the tight production (two hours plus intermission) exudes such intelligence and imagination that even its shortcomings are easy to excuse. Performed by the Saint Louis Black Repertory Company through April 10 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $25-$37.50 ($10 rush seats for students available ten minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810. (Dennis Brown)