The Fall of Heaven Novelist Walter Mosley's first play takes us from Harlem to Heaven and nearly to Hell. After New York City street hustler Tempest Landry is mistakenly gunned down by police for a crime he did not commit, Saint Peter condemns him to spend his eternity in damnation. When Tempest says hell no, he won't go, he is returned to Earth to see the errors of his ways — at which point the play settles into a series of debates about imponderables like good and evil. Novelist Mosley has a deft hand with dialogue; novice playwright Mosley does not yet appreciate the distinction between dialogue and action. His play could benefit from a little less talk and a little more drama. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through January 30 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $18.50 to $70. Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.
— Dennis Brown
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 backbreaking 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
The Year of Magical Thinking Fontaine Syer delivers a sublimely luminous portrayal of author Joan Didion recounting the harrowing year following the sudden death of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne. Syer is a gracious and compelling person with whom to spend an hour and a half. But the gentle strength of her demeanor seems to be at odds with the character that exists on the page. As written, Thinking elevates self-pity to the level of blatant narcissism. Didion's intended message seems to be that only through total self-absorption can one survive an unexpected tragedy. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through January 30 at the Emerson Studio in the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $44. Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repst.org. (DB)