The Heidi Chronicles In the title role of Heidi Holland, a budding art historian who witnesses the idealism of the Eugene McCarthy 1960s, the fresh start of the post-Nixon 1970s and the materialism of the Ronald Reagan 1980s, Effie Johnson delivers a persuasive, even endearing, performance. But in this very shallow rendering of Wendy Wasserstein's very shallow play, Johnson is the only honest female on the stage. Everyone else is portrayed as a cartoon-like doofus. The production is so overloaded in Heidi's favor, it's easy to grow impatient with her constant moping. By the time she complains about envying women she doesn't even know, you just want to rap her in the mouth and force her to listen to an endless loop of Steve Lawrence signing "I've Gotta Be Me." Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through March 4 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $14 to $63 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.
Insignificant Others: A Love Story James Russell Wax explores the self-inflicted madness of relationships through the characters Richard (Rusty Gunther) and Allie (Meg Rodd) and Richard's imaginary friend, Sunshine the clown (Emily Strembicki), and Allie's imaginary friend, Dr. Cuddles the bear (Brian Hyde). On paper it sounds a little too precious. But Gunther and Rodd impart enough insecurity and hurt to their characters to make them more than straight men, allowing their relationship to falter into being believably. Strembicki's Sunshine is coarse and delightful, campaigning loudly for an end to her symbiotic relationship with Richard, while Hyde's Dr. Cuddles is a clingy passive-aggressive who refuses to let his creator move on. The third act drags slightly while Richard and Allie discuss love vis-à-vis butterflies (we get it: they're on the verge of bursting forth from their cocoons), but Strembicki and Hyde's silent brawl behind the lovers leavens the excess saccharine in the foreground. Insignificant Others is that rare romantic comedy that will please devotees of the form and thrill those who hate romantic comedies. Produced by Hydeware Theatre through February 25 at the Tin Ceiling, 3159 Cherokee Street. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors). Call 314-368-7306 or visit www.hydewaretheatre.com.
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.
Picasso at the Lapin Agile When a playwright can elicit laughs with jokes about the curve of the horizon, he's doing something very right indeed. If Steve Martin's comedy about the imagined meeting between Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso hasn't become a classic yet, it's at least a standard and deservedly so. What a pleasure it is to listen to such sweetly intelligent dialogue. Under the direction of Chris Stephens, this student cast is spotty. The most assured performance comes from guest actor Richard Berne, whose portrayal of the aging Gaston would have us believe that in 1904 Mel Brooks was alive and well and living in Paris. Performed through February 24 by the St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley at the Terry Fischer Theatre, 3400 Pershall Road, Ferguson. Tickets are free, but this one is filling the house. Best to call ahead at 314-513-4488.
The Sea Edward Bond, one of England's most audacious playwrights, attacks pre-World War I establishment Britain with a yarn that critics have likened to The Tempest but which seems to have more in common with Shaw's Heartbreak House. No one here is very admirable. Not only is the society queen bee an insufferable boor, but the put-upon shopkeeper who suffers her taunts turns out to be a madman. This student production is hampered by thick accents that in turn are hampered by hollow acoustics. But an evening with Bond is always an opportunity to re-examine life (and here, death) through a skewed lens. Performed by Lindenwood University Department of Theatre through February 24 at the Lindenwood Cultural Center, 400 N. Kingshighway, St. Charles. Tickets are $10 ($8 for seniors, $6 for children). Call 636-949-4878.
Standing on My Knees Reviewed in this issue