Assassins Stephen Sondheim's most audacious musical (written in collaboration with John Weidham) is also one of his least-seen. The show takes direct aim at our national obsession with guns. Set in a carnival shooting gallery, we are treated to a series of vignettes about nine shadowy iconoclasts who have sought to snuff out the life of America's most public bureaucrat. This New Line Theatre production lacks the intensity and passion to sustain interest in this original, even bizarre, material. But if you're looking to add another notch to your Sondheim gun belt, here is an infrequent opportunity to see a cynical, unsettling entertainment by the defining theater composer of our generation. Through March 29 at the Ivory Theatre, 7622 Michigan Avenue. Tickets are $15 to $18 ($10 to $15 for children, students and seniors; $8 rush seats available for students five minutes before showtime). Call 314-773-6526 or visit www.newlinetheatre.com. — Dennis Brown
Parenting 101: A Musical Guide to Raising Parents This extended revue about the trials and tribulations of having children is yet another entry in the "you too can write a musical" sweepstakes. The sketches, whose subjects range from childbirth to the loss of a pet to shopping in toy stores, strive for jokes; the songs are full of puns. Some people enjoy this kind of in-your-face entertainment. But by the end of Act One, the only reason I could think of to return for Act Two was to see if the four energetic actors — who played the first act at the top of their lungs — would have any voices left by evening's end. It wasn't reason enough. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue at I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $42.50. Call 314-469-7529 or visit www.theplayhouseatwestport.com. (DB)
The Rabbit Hole Reviewed in this issue.
The Rimers of Eldritch Lanford Wilson's lyrical drama about hypocrisy in a moribund Missouri town is prized for the tightly woven point and counterpoint in the dialogue. Under David Houghton's direction, this choir-like quality is emphasized by the use of script books placed on music stands as the only set decoration; projected black-and-white photos of cast members in a real small town provide a backdrop. When actors are massed together, it works well, creating the image of a town locked in a death spiral. But with just one or two actors working together, the ever-present books are a constant reminder that you're watching a play. The town outcast, Skelly (Collins Lewis), holds no script, and delivers the strongest performance. Matt Kemmerer brings a natural, quiet appeal to Walter, the newcomer all the ladies swoon for. As one half of the acidic gossip duo that serves as a vituperative Greek chorus, Allison Hoppe's nasal and insidious Wilma is a nagging, menacing presence — the true voice of Eldritch. Presented by Soundstage Productions through March 22 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard. Tickets are $12. Call 314-968-8070 or visit www.soundstageproductions.net. — Paul Friswold
The Wedding Singer Reviewed in this issue.