The History Boys Reviewed in this issue.
Macbeth As if staging an outdoor Macbeth during the rainy season weren't challenging enough, director Richard Strelinger and Hydeware Theatre upped the degree of difficulty by using only three actors to play twenty-four characters. The frequent character changes inhibit this production from hitting its stride, but you forget all that once everyone has been introduced. Ken Haller's Macbeth is a hesitant, doubting assassin. Ember Hyde's Lady Macbeth is steely and driven; Macbeth practically cowers behind her as she incites him to murder Duncan, the king the fact that Hyde also plays Duncan lends the scene a certain frisson. Brian Hyde brings menace to Banquo's apparition (no small feat), and as Macduff's son, his daffy sailor's hat and fey slap-attack on a murderous Macbeth is dark comedy. But there's something comedic in Macduff's final confrontation with Macbeth, and it shouldn't be so. This is a challenging, enjoyable production. But bring a chair the lot is harder than Lady Macbeth's heart. Through September 16 at the Whitaker Theater (at the Pool Pavilion off Center Cross Drive) in Tower Grove Park. Admission is free. Visit www.hydewaretheatre.org or call 314-368-7306. Paul Friswold
Over the River and Through the Woods The plot of this K's Theatrical Korps production is slight but functional. Nicholas (Michael Amoroso) eats dinner with both sets of grandparents every Sunday, and has for his entire 29 years. A promotion to Seattle would mean breaking the tradition. Can he make the move? Amoroso's genial nature yields good laughs, and his warmth keeps him from seeming ungrateful or unloving. Despite their Jersey Italian origins, neither Grampa Frank (Dean Schmidt) nor Grampa Nunzio (Jim Kistner) attempts an accent; it's a minor quibble, but the absence is compounded by the steady accents of Grammas Aida (Betsy Blankenship) and Emma (Diane Burkard). Burkard steals the show as the loud and loving Emma, striking the right balance of bossy and bemused. The second act is more serious complete with terminal illness and selfless love for everyone. That's not necessarily a complaint, especially if you're in the audience with a parent or grandparent: Frank's speech explaining a father's role coincided with a sudden dust cloud in the audience that caused most of the men to rub their eyes furiously while wives squeezed their free hands. A little schmaltzy? Sure. It won't kill you, though. Through September 16 at the Cardinal Rigali Center, 20 Archbishop May Drive (off Laclede Station Road), Shrewsbury. Tickets are $15 ($12 for students and seniors). Call 314-354-8984 or visit www.kurtainkall.org. (PF)
Suddenly Last Summer Reviewed in this issue.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change An intrepid group of local producers is trying to make a long-run go of this sketch-y evening that chronicles, spoofs and sometimes even satirizes mating rituals from the first date to the final farewell. They just might pull it off, because as staged with verve by St. Louis theater veteran Bobby Miller this musical revue is rambunctious, breezy and just ribald enough to keep viewers chortling from beginning to end. An ideally suited ensemble (Michael Jokerst, Alan Knoll, Chopper Leifheit, Lee Anne Mathews, Laurie McConnell, Rosemary Watts) cavorts through a fast-paced evening of mostly humorous skits that allow everyone a chance to shine. Sitting through the show is like chewing a wad of bubble gum: After a few hours it begins to lose its flavor. But the sheer act of watching so many people have so much fun both onstage and in the audience bespeaks success. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza, 635 Westport Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $41 to $46. Call 314-469-7529. Dennis Brown