Daddy's Dyin' (Who's Got the Will?) The title pretty much says it all, even as it sets the tone for all these crazy family deathbed high jinks in rural Texas. You say you don't like your characters complicated? This, bud's, for you: a whole evenin' of yellin' and cursin' and whorin' and tanglin' and singin'. There's plenty a lovin' and hatin' and beer drinkin', not to mention all them good jokes about body odors and busted bladders and that pesky missin' toilet paper. Of course, the caliber o' the writin' puts Steel Magnolias on a par with Tennessee Williams, and Crimes of the Heart seems downright Shakespearean. But you don't get to see sentimentality as phony as this any ol' week. In case, by the time the plot finally drags to a resolution, you've begun to wonder how this dinner-theater entry found itself on the HotCity sked, here's an explanation from the press release: "HotCity Theatre produces contemporary, issue-oriented works of theatre that challenge and inspire St. Louis area audiences." Oh, so that's what it's doin'. Well, hot dang. Performed by HotCity Theatre Company through July 29 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-289-4060 or visit www.hotcitytheatre.org.
Drama at Inish Reviewed in this issue.
Gypsy If you need a reason to justify sitting outside in 100-degree heat at yet another production of Gypsy, look no further than Meredith Patterson. In the title role as the guileless, gangly little girl who morphs into celebrated striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, Patterson is a beguiling delight. Not only is she a captivating performer, but she's a terrific listener. When others are center stage singing or dancing, she sits to one side and watches with rapt intensity. When Mama Rose (the forceful Karen Mason) sings the eerie Act One closer, "Everything's Coming Up Roses," Patterson physically shrivels. At the curtain call, as the cast waved goodbye to the audience, she was the last to leave the stage. Clearly, she is savoring every minute of this production and her enthusiasm is contagious. Through July 23 at the Muny in Forest Park. In addition to the free seats, tickets are $8 to $60. Call 314-361-1900 or visit www.muny.org.
The House of Blue Leaves Reviewed in this issue.
The Importance of Being Earnest Ron Gibbs and Tim Grumich play Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, Oscar Wilde's two most incorrigible ne'er-do-wells, who happen to be in love with Gwendolen and Cecily which in this Act Inc. production shows good taste indeed, because Julie Venegoni's headstrong Gwendolen is a veritable oasis of loveliness, and Colleen Backer's Cecily is perfection. When Backer is onstage, the viewer is tempted to not take a breath, for fear of dispelling the magic. Wilde's well-worn plot becomes almost secondary to a more intriguing question: Can Backer sustain this performance? She can and does and in a manner that doesn't throw the evening out of balance. Performed by Act Inc. through July 23 at the Fontbonne University Fine Arts Center Theatre, 6800 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton. Tickets are $18 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-725-9108 or visit www.actinc.biz.
Menopause The Musical This sassy musical revue 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.
White Christmas Reviewed in this issue.
Zombozo Can a zombie clown find true love? Eleven actors and eight musicians on one tiny stage search for the answer to this hitherto unasked but evidently vital question. Jason Lauderdale's wacky new script melds silent-movie conventions with zombie-movie fright effects, throwing in a few circus acts just for fun. This is a messy production, and it's not just the blood and guts tossed in the audience's direction. The transitions are often awkward and lots of the humor falls flat. Yet there's something strangely compelling about it, even beyond Damien Samways' John Cleese-like performance and Pteri Plotnick's fire-swallowing. Directed by Robert Strasser, the wordless show is accompanied by Irene Allen's original music and runs through July 30 at the Tin Ceiling, 3159 Cherokee Street. Tickets are $8. Call 314-664-1161 or visit www .tinceiling.org.