Amelia Earhart "What happened, Amelia? What happened?" So asks a reporter who tries to unravel the fate of the celebrated aviator who disappeared in the Pacific Ocean during the final leg of her around-the-world flight in 1937. Who doesn't love a good mystery? This 45-minute inquiry by Kathryn Schultz Miller wastes little time in painting a surprisingly dispassionate portrayal of Earhart: too little experience, too much hubris. In the title role, the ideally cast Amanda Williford conveys Amelia's brash allure while not shying away from her fallibility. The other three actors (Ann Ashby, Lakeetha Blakeney, Chauncy Thomas) are all over the place in various roles. Jeffery Matthews' direction keeps the pace building to strong effect. No one is credited for the striking sound design, but it functions almost as a fifth actor. The show comes recommended for kids age nine to eleven, but don't let that scare you off. I'm older than eleven and I had a fine time. Performed by the Imaginary Theatre Company through March 28 at the Missouri History Museum, Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue (in Forest Park). Tickets are $6 ($5 for MHM members). Call 314-968-7344 or visit www.repstl.org/itc.
— Dennis Brown
The Fantasticks Reviewed in this issue.Ongoing
Crime and Punishment Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus excise many characters and much of the setup of Dostoyevsky's novel, but they retain the essence and import of the major themes. Director Stuart Carden and his cast of three (Jimmy King, Amy Landon, Triney Sandoval) drill into the psychology of guilt and salvation while maintaining a tension-fraught pace. King's Raskolnikov is a shabby intellectual playing at semantics with the ebulliently wily Inspector Porfiry (Sandoval), but their discussion ranges far afield: into religious belief, the purpose of great men and the debilitating poverty that's crushing people such as Raskolnikov. Not bad for a murder interrogation, eh? Landon delivers well-crafted and individual renditions of Raskolnikov's mother, his friend, the woman he loves and both of his murder victims; symbolic, yes, but it's artfully played and not bludgeoned upside your head. Through March 28 at 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
Desire Under the Elms Director Jerry McAdams picks a deliberate path through Eugene O'Neill's tale of the Cabot family's disintegration. Act One unspools with stately grace, allowing Peter (Ben Richie), Simeon (Chris Jones) and their half-brother Eben (Franklin Killian) to slowly reveal the fractures in their relationship. Richie and Jones make an entertaining team, while Eben, a seething ball of spite, twitches and sputters with indignant rage against the cruelty of their absent father, Ephraim (Jim Anthony, powerful and excellent). When the three discover Ephraim has a new wife, Abbie (the very good Patty Ulrich), the brothers depart for California. Ephraim is feeling his age (he's in his seventies, Abbie's in her thirties), and he lays out the arc of his life in a speech that is beautifully melancholy, while Abbie obliviously brushes her hair. She has fallen in love with Eben. Her seduction of him is nauseating and brilliantly performed, the perfect lustful counterbalance to Ephraim's lonely monologue. A fine story, well told — and depressing as hell. Presented by Muddy Waters Theatre through March 28 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard (in the Big Brothers Big Sisters building). Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, seniors and active-duty military personnel). Call 314-799-8399 or visit www.muddywaterstheatre.com. (PF)
Gutenberg! The Musical! What the world needs now is a new musical about fifteenth-century German inventor Johann Gutenberg, and Bud Simon and Doug Davenport are just the team to write it. Bud and Doug (Ben Nordstrom, Steve Isom) are currently performing a reading of their bizarre new musical at the Ivory Theatre. Not only is this bare-bones backer's audition a constant delight, but in between the zaniness and spoofery the show finds time to acknowledge the importance of yearning. Because these two innocents care so deeply for each other and for theater in general, we in turn care for them. By evening's end they have become our newest best friends; the pleasure of their company is all ours. Performed by the Temporary Theatre Company through March 28 at the Ivory Theatre, 7622 Michigan Avenue. Tickets are $20 ($10 on Tuesday). Call 314-631-8330. (DB)