And It Shall Be Forgiven... In the playbill for this new drama that seeks to find immediacy in world history, playwright Jason Slavik poignantly recounts the raw emotion of seeing a Holocaust survivor outside the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Although that event led to this well-intentioned play, Slavik makes the mistake common to many novice playwrights: Rather than capitalize on his strengths by recounting his own experience, he tries to tell an ambitious story beyond his reach. Instead of dramatizing a personal point of view, we get a time-traveling, generality-strewn tale of paranormal activity that tries to link a clerk in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands with visitors to Amsterdam in 2009. The current production feels sorely under-rehearsed, though with non-direction like this it's hard to tell. Produced by First Run Theatre through January 20 at DeSmet Jesuit High School, 233 North New Ballas Road, Creve Coeur. Tickets are $10 ($8 for students and seniors). Call 314-352-5114 or visit www.firstruntheatre.com. — Dennis Brown
Romeo and Juliet Reviewed in this issue.
[title of show] The plot of Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen's [title of show] is the back story of [title of show]'s genesis. Two struggling actors named Hunter and Jeff (Ben Nordstrom and Benjamin Howes) write a musical about making a musical on a three-week deadline in order to enter the finished piece in a theatrical festival. The actors point out structural flaws in the script, make jokes about missing lines and sing songs about wanting to sing great songs. The show could easily veer into "look how cute and clever we are" chicanery, but the persistent and nasty honesty of the script elevates [title of show] above fluff. The songs are tuneful and funny, rife with dirty language and disparaging comments about Broadway's penchant for factory-made musicals populated by proven stars rather than great performers. Nordstrom and Howes are excellent as the relentless dreamers: charming and fallible and very human. Stephanie D'Abruzzo gives a knockout performance as the outwardly tough Susan, who thinks she's given up on show biz and her childhood dreams; her counterbalance is Amy (Heidi Justman), who's making a living but not living the dream. Presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis under the direction of Victoria Bussert through February 7 in the Emerson Studio in the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $42.50 to $54. Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org. — Paul Friswold
The 39 Steps Zaniness reigns supreme as four actors re-create Alfred Hitchcock's acclaimed 1935 thriller about murder and intrigue in England and Scotland. Yet this inventive and respectful adaptation by Patrick Barlow is not interested in re-creating Hitchcock's film; rather, it uses the vintage movie as a conduit through which to celebrate live theater. As the quintessential Hitchcock hero Richard Hannay, the ideally cast Paul DeBoy provides a touch of urbane sanity amid two hours of breezy fun. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through January 31 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $18 to $68 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $10 and $15, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org. (DB)
Love Song John Kolvenbach's comic drama about Beane (Aaron Orion Baker), a man who is so emotionally shuttered and psychologically fragile as to be invisible even in daylight, is at times overwritten and just this side of overwrought. When a hard-bitten gamine named Molly (Sarah Cannon) burgles his apartment, she also steals his heart, and Beane finally takes notice of the world he's been ignoring. His nascent joy burbles over into the life of his sister Joan (Lavonne Byers) and her husband Harry (John Pierson), improving their relationship. Byers and Baker work together beautifully; she's protective of Beane and frustrated by him — a classic big sister. Some scenes take too long to develop for too little payoff, but script flaws don't deter director Jason Cannon. His deft handling of the penultimate scene between Beane and Joan is a tender and sharply honest moment between siblings who at last see and understand each other. Presented by St. Louis Actors' Studio through January 24 at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle Avenue. Tickets are $25 ($18 for students and seniors). Call 314-458-2978 or visit www.stlas.org. (PF)