All My Sons When Arthur Miller's drama about a family-run company that knowingly supplied cracked cylinder heads to the Army Air Force during World War II was first produced in 1947, Miller was accused of trying to smear American enterprise. Nearly 60 years later, this tragic melodrama about Joe Keller, who is incapable of either taking blame or accepting responsibility for the profound wrongness of his actions, is still too overplotted, still too didactic -- and still packs a heckuva wallop. Under the intelligent direction of Larry D. Quiggins, this robust all-student mounting features fine performances in the four key roles (Jonathan Elkins, Brooke Soptic and Dustin S. Massie as the bruised Keller family, and especially DeAnna Jarrell, whose ambivalent ingénue is this production's cylinder). Presented by Lindenwood University's theater department through April 24. Jelkyl Theater, Roemer Hall, First Capitol Drive at Kingshighway, St. Charles. Call 636-949-4878. (DB)
Ashes to Ashes This gay rondo on The Big Chill concerns seven chums who have chartered a yacht in Greece to scatter the ashes of a friend-and-lover who recently died from AIDS. The yacht sails the Greek isles, but the play travels nowhere. Instead the characters talk, talk, talk -- first to each other and then to the audience. In between the incessant toilet chatter that passes for humor, each actor has an obligatory monologue that espouses such less-than-original observations as: "Life is precious." It's fine to preach to the choir, but if writer-director Thomas Long has any interest in reaching a wider audience, he needs to brush up on the fundamentals of playwriting. Presented by Olympus Theatre through April 24 at 4146 Manchester Road. Call 314-371-1330. (DB)
The Good Person of Szechwan Reviewed in this issue.
Our Town Thornton Wilder's classic still covers life and love and death in small-town America. Saint Louis University's production uses an a capella chorus whose beautiful harmonies underscore the play's wistful mood. Heather Wood as Emily and Bob Thibaut as George anchor the production in honest, heartbreaking realism, while the Stage Manager (James Malone) speaks casually with the audience about topics ranging from philosophy to phosphates. Director Tom Martin's inventive staging makes excellent use of chalk outlines on the back wall of the theater and black umbrellas in the graveyard scene. While much of Act One seems like unnecessary exposition and much of Act Three seems overwrought, the exploration of love and marriage in Act Two is earnest and as universal as it ever was. Our Town is a piece of American theater history. Through April 24 at the Mainstage Theater in Xavier Hall (3733 West Pine Mall). Call 314-977-2998. (DJ)
Red Herring Reviewed in this issue.