Crime and Punishment Reviewed in this issue.
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 Ritchie), Simeon (Chris Jones) and their half-brother Eben (Franklin Killian) to slowly reveal the fractures in their relationship. Ritchie 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. — Paul Friswold
Gutenberg! The Musical! Reviewed in this issue.
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the Moon Marigolds Before he became a playwright, Paul Zindel was a high school science teacher. He used his past to good effect in this family drama about Tillie (Allison Ginsburg), a young girl who experiments with seeds that have been subjected to radiation. We're dealing with metaphor here. Tillie and her problematic younger sister (Jessica Cohen) are like the marigold seeds: How many poisonous rays can they endure from their toxic mother Beatrice (Andra Harkins) and still grow? Despite the fact that the embittered Beatrice is a character of unrelieved grimness, Zindel's Pulitzer Prize-winning play has become a theater staple. Performed by Stray Dog Theatre through March 20 at the Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue. Tickets are $20 ($18 for students and seniors). Call 314-865-1995 or visit www.straydogtheatre.org. — Dennis Brown