A Number British playwright Caryl Churchill transports viewers to a bleak future world in which human cloning is possible, then spins a family drama as old as Cain and Abel. This theatrical roller coaster only runs 55 minutes, but it provides a ride so full of twists and turns as to leave the viewer exhilarated. The multiple roles are played to nigh-perfection by Jim Butz and Anderson Matthews. At the curtain call, as these two adversaries bow to each other, you can feel the palpable admiration and mutual respect that the onstage characters may lack but which is always there, out of sight, undergirding and sustaining this truly disturbing yet enthralling parable about a perilous tomorrow. Performed at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis at the Emerson Studio Theatre through February 4 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $32.50 to $50 (rush tickets available for students and seniors, $8 and $10 respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.
Ain't Misbehavin' Five singers, ten hands and fifty fingers spread rhythm around in abundance in this modestly ambitious tribute to prodigious songwriter Thomas "Fats" Waller. Drummond Crenshaw, Anita Jackson, Julia Nixon, Teressa Renee' Williams and especially the satin-smooth J. Samuel Davis bring energy and affection to Waller standards from the 1920s and '30s, including "The Joint Is Jumpin'," "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Keeping Out of Mischief Now." This revue starts out as a merry snapshot of the past, but by the time the ensemble sings the haunting "Black and Blue," the evening has become suffused with pain. Not even a toe-tapping finale can disguise the searing, unhealed scar at the show's spine. Performed by the Black Rep through February 4 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $40. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org.
Menopause The Musical Who knew hormone shifts could be so much fun? An energetic cast of four women "of a certain age" sing and dance their way through parodies of popular '60s and '70s songs whose rewritten lyrics tackle night sweats, memory loss and mood swings. Laura Ackerman has great comic timing in her rendition of "Puff the Magic Dragon," while Rosemary Watts has almost too much fun with her ode to sex toys ("You Are My Destiny"). Rochelle Walker does a great Tina Turner impersonation, and Lee Anne Mathews sings a sultry "Tropical Hot Flash." Designed to amuse and empower women who have "gone through the passage," the show ends with the audience joining the cast for a raucous kick-line celebration. 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.
Via Dolorosa Reviewed in this issue.