Blackbird Although its subject matter — the stark confrontation, fifteen years later, between a mature adult and the child he bedded — is disturbing, David Harrower's harrowing play makes for breathless theater. As we voyeuristically learn what transpired when Una (Carmen Goodine, fearless) was twelve and Ray (Christopher Oden, anguished) was forty, we are left to wonder if this heinous deed was somehow intertwined with a twisted kind of love. The stunning Rep production has been meticulously directed by Amy Saltz, who knows precisely where she wants the story to go but is confident enough to trust her actors to get there on their own. The evening leaves the viewer parched. My mouth hasn't been this dry at a theater since I saw Lawrence of Arabia. Blackbird makes exhilarating demands on performer and viewer alike. The first is this: It demands to be seen. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through February 8 at the Emerson Studio in the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $41 to $52. Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.
— Dennis Brown
Medal of Honor Rag Reviewed in this issue.
Sabina Reviewed in this issue.
Tell Me Somethin' Good Not to get all sappy on you, but if your heart is broken, Tell Me Somethin' Good can fix it. And if your heart ain't broke, Tell Me Somethin' Good is going to ding it up a little bit, then put it back good as new. Conceived and directed by Ron Himes, this musical revue is constructed as a he-said-she-said walk through the history of black pop music, which is to say it's a walk through the past 40 years of American music. Neither sex gets the last word on love, but the ladies may win on points — one listen to Sarah Stephens' rich, dark voice powering through Curtis Mayfield's "Mama Didn't Lie," and you'll do anything she asks. In the interest of fairness, the ladies sitting one row down seemed similarly entranced by Brian Owen's arguments in "Sixty Minute Man." The entire ensemble is excellent, and the band, under the direction of Charles Creath, is outstanding: The rhythm section of Jimmy Hinds (bass) and Molden K. Pickett III (drums) is a force of nature. Rock solid. Presented by the Black Rep through February 8 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $30.50 to $43 ($5 discount for students and seniors; $10 rush seats available for students 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org.
— Paul Friswold
Twelfth Night The Italian isle of Illyria is represented by a lovely symmetrical set design from Jim Ryan that — thanks to Sean Savoie's rapturous lighting design — seems to have been plopped into the center of a half-gallon tub of rainbow sherbet. But despite the attempt to transform Shakespeare's winter comedy about shipwrecked twins and mistaken identity into a summer idyll, what works best here is the titanic clash between the life force that is Sir Toby Belch (Alan Knoll, cunningly comic) and Malvolio (Paul Balfe), who would make a virtue of life-smothering Puritanism. As staged by Maggie Ryan, the production even offers clever tips on how to recycle leftover Christmas trees. Produced by Insight Theatre Company through February 8 at the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall High School, 530 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves. Tickets are $20 ($10 for students, $15 for seniors). Call 314-968-1505, extension 131, or visit www.insighttheatrecompany.com. (DB)