Anton in Show Business Jane Martin's love letter-cum-95-Theses to regional theater posits that theater is alchemy performed in the dark by idiots, egotists, incompetents, ax-grinders, the ambitious and the emotionally needy — and that despite it all, you still get more than your fair share of excellent shows. A small San Antonio company attempts to mount Chekhov's Three Sisters, starring TV diva Holly (Sabra Sellers), Off-Off-Broadway vet Casey (Amy Kelly) and idealistic local girl Lisabeth (Gabrielle Greer). All three are excellent, particularly Kelly, who drifts through background scenes with the aggressive boredom of a true New Yorker. Nicole Angeli portrays the hyper- educated and self-involved producer, Kate, with guileless pomposity; her magnificent delivery of the company's esoteric mission statement is distilled to its Ur-state by the bellicose director, Wikewitch (Andra Harkins), when he roars, "I fuck you with my art, and you cry out," at the audience. It's a funny, painful and honest evening, well told by director Carolyne Hood and her cast. Performed by St. Louis Shakespeare through August 15 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $15 to $25. Call 314-361-5664 or visit www.stlshakespeare.org.
— Paul Friswold
Psychopathia Sexualis Sensitive painter Arthur (Tom Lehmann) can't perform sexually unless he has his father's argyle socks close at hand. After six fruitless years of therapy, his analyst Dr. Block (Michael Juncal) has stolen the hosiery ten days before Arthur's wedding to Lucille (Susan Arnold Marks). John Patrick Shanley's sitcom setup blossoms into classic farce, thanks to Juncal's maniacal portrayal of the good doctor. He's a whooping, crowing loon, climbing on furniture and shredding the psyche of Arthur's friend and initial sock-retriever Howard (Steven Peirick) with lascivious relish. It's up to the brash and endearingly Texan Lucille to save her fiancé — and as fine as Juncal and Peirick's session is, Marks vs. Juncal is a true heavyweight clash of egos and intellects. Directed by Marsha Hollander Parker and performed by Citilites Theatre through August 22 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $15 to $20. Call 314-773-1879 or visit www.citilitestheatre.com. (PF)Ongoing
Promises, Promises This once-popular Neil Simon/Burt Bacharach/Hal David musical based on Billy Wilder's perfect 1960 movie satire The Apartment gets the Stages treatment — which means that, despite occasional moments where the acting personalities transcend the staging (most particularly, Ben Nordstrom and Brandi Wooten for ten blissful minutes at the top of Act Two) — for the most part, Promises, Promises winds up feeling (and sounding) like just about every other Stages St. Louis production. When this wistful musical premiered in 1968, it introduced a unique new pop score that moved Broadway music in a new direction. Here, alas, the once-driving melodies by Bacharach and David are about as exciting as listening to "The Best of Broadway" on Muzak. Performed through August 15 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 S. Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $49 ($28 for children, $46 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-821-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.org.
— Dennis Brown