Cooking with Elisa Don't be misled by the innocuous title that suggests this story might concern a cable TV show. Set in the kitchen (lushly designed by Scott C. Neale) of a private estate in Argentina, on its most external level this 1993 play by Lucía Laragione (translated into English by Philip Boehm) concerns Elisa, an illiterate peasant girl who becomes an apprentice under the austere tutelage of a tyrannical chef. If you're politically minded, the plot becomes an allegory for gross abuses of power in Argentina (or just about anywhere). If politics is not your thing, the two-character play works just as well as a riff on Cinderella and the Wicked Stepmother. Elisa tells a harrowing story in which jealousy leads to intimidation leads to terrorizing. By evening's end once-innocuous shadows on the kitchen wall (elegantly lit by Ann Wrightson) begin to resemble guillotines. Under the direction of Bonnie Taylor, the two actresses are impeccable. Shanara Gabrielle's Elisa is wistful and lovely; Jane Paradise makes Rebecca's Mrs. Danvers seem benign. Performed by Upstream Theater through January 23 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $25 ($15 for students, $20 for seniors). Call 314-863-4999 or visit www.upstreamtheater.org. — Dennis Brown
The Fall of Heaven Reviewed in this issue.
The Giver Reviewed in this issue.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre Director Andrea Frye recasts the hoary tale of Pericles and his ocean-spanning journey of woe and loss as a centuries-spanning exploration of the African diaspora and breathes sumptuous life into otherwise incomprehensible characters. In the title role, Ka'ramuu Kush is as adept at portraying regal dignity as he is back-breaking grief, transforming Pericles' suffering from the abstract to the very real as circumstances beyond his control strip away his wife and child. Patrese McClain makes a radiant Thaisa (Pericles' wife), a woman worth mourning for more than a decade, and Sharisa Whatley's portrayal of their daughter Marina is an artful depiction of virtuous nobility. The excellent supporting cast is aided by Frye's strong direction, which transforms this troublesome partial-Shakespeare into a legitimate story with a strong moral and no shortage of beautiful moments. Presented by the Black Rep through January 30 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $47. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org. — Paul Friswold