Interrupting Vanessa Vanessa's mom (Carol North) has invited Timmy Fibbins (Christine Brooks) over because she thinks it'll do Vanessa (Roxane McWilliams) — a grade-school weirdo who wants to fit in and remain true to her weirdness — some good to have a friend. Not only is Timmy weirder than Vanessa, he's aware of his outcast status and comfortable with it. "I'm the only child like me in the world, so I'm an only child. My sister is also an only child," he tells Vanessa confidently, and suddenly being weird seems a noble burden. Colleen Neuman's drama celebrates the nature of both kids with laughs and honesty. Brooks plays Timmy as twitchy and excitable, someone who embraces everything in the world with delight. Vanessa's more brooding; her mother doesn't listen to her, and an imaginary father (Nicholas Kryah) lurks around, dispensing advice and praise. Neuman's script deftly reveals how Vanessa underestimates her mother, just as she underestimates herself. At a tidy 50 minutes, Interrupting Vanessa is designed for young audiences but parents are going to find a lot to like. Presented by Metro Theatre Company through January 31 at Clayton High School's Little Theatre, 2 Mark Twain Circle, Clayton. Tickets are $12 ($10 for children, students and seniors; group rates also available). Call 314-997-6777 or visit www.metrotheatercompany.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.
Romeo and Juliet A lavishly staged and powerfully acted production of Shakespeare's classic, ablaze with the crackling life of its '60s-era inner-city setting. Director Chris Anthony pays meticulous attention to the power of the language, lacing the theme of love's spiritually redemptive power with terrible moments of hate, lust and human frailty. Romeo (Nic Few) and Juliet (Sharisa Whatley) are immature and impetuous teenagers swept away by a maelstrom of passion. Chauncy Thomas crafts a Mercutio who's buck wild and full of life, while his foe, Tybalt (Tim Norman), imagines less and suffers just the same. Beautiful to look at, hip and whip-smart in execution and beautifully acted from its boisterous opening scene to the quiet, devastating finale that still offers an evocative, hopeful note. Presented by the Black Rep through February 14 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $43. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org. (PF)
[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. (PF)