Dirty Blonde Reviewed in this issue.
End Days Deborah Zoe Laufer's oddly comic 9/11 play takes a needlessly serpentine route to reach its destination, but exceptionally strong performances from the cast make the trip mostly worthwhile. World Trade Center survivor Arthur Stein (Terry Meddows) has a wife, Sylvia (Nancy Bell), who has embraced hardcore evangelical Christianity, a teenage daughter, Rachel (Chelsea Serocke), who's an angry, black-clad goth, and a debilitating dose of depression. Enter young neighbor Nelson Steinberg (Clayton Fox), who has his own bummer of a back-story but nonetheless embraces life with an optimism that eventually rouses the Stein family members from their respective funks. Fox makes the science-loving Nelson a hoot, and his awkward, earnest wooing of Rachel gets the most out of both actors. Roger Erb deserves special mention for his dual portrayal of a hippie-casual Jesus Christ and a mercenary and caustic Stephen Hawking. Especially the latter: It takes a gifted actor to deliver condescension through a voice processor, but Erb is more than up to the task. Presented by New Jewish Theatre under the direction of Eric Little through September 25 at the Wool Studio Theatre at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus, Creve Coeur. Tickets are $37.50 to $39.50 ($2 discount for seniors and JCC members). Call 314-442-3283 or visit www.newjewishtheatre.org. — Paul Friswold
Red The many contradictory moods of abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko are on display as he strides about his Manhattan studio preparing a series of murals that will never make it to their intended destination: the Four Seasons Restaurant. It's a towering challenge for any play to build tension when the villain is an unseen building (or, as here, a classy dinery). But as Rothko, Brian Dykstra doesn't allow rationale to deter him; reveling in the artist's excesses, he creates a bold and impassioned portrayal. In Rothko playwright John Logan has found yet another forum (as he did in his screenplays for Gladiator and The Last Samurai) for the musings of a thoughtful combatant. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through October 2 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $19 to $72. Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org. — Dennis Brown