Would the world of film be markedly different if Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne had acted in more than one "talkie"? The husband and wife were the acknowledged masters of American theater from the '20s to the '60s, but they starred in only one film (The Guardsman, in 1931); still, each received an Academy Award nomination for that appearance. Not bad. When offered a ridiculous $1 million (that's in Depression-era dollars, pal) for a follow-up two-picture deal, Fontanne famously replied to the desperate studio head, "My dear sir, we can be bought, but we cannot be bored."
The Lunts instead remained dedicated to the theater, always performing together throughout their illustrious shared career. Onstage, the Lunts were a revelation: They are credited with transforming stage acting from the declamatory to the naturalistic, bringing a sense of realism to the craft of acting and inspiring everyone from Helen Hayes to Laurence Olivier.
The lives of these remarkable performers are celebrated in the play The Fabulous Lunts, adapted from Jared Brown's biography of the same name and directed by RFT theater critic Dennis Brown at HH Studio (2500 Sutton Boulevard; 314-862-1236). Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (October 14 to 16), and tickets are $10. -- Paul Friswold
Bold, but with a hint of whimsy
Every oenophile knows that the full appreciation of a wine's character relies on the ability to perceive subtle distinctions within the primary flavor of a vintage. Things like "hints of oak" or "berry overtones" add complexity to a wine, and the subtleties of characteristics such as these deepen with time. If you're unconvinced, compare the layered aromatic notes of a Château Pichon Comtesse de Lalande vinted in 1933 to those of a Franzia Burgundy boxed last May.
The language of wine borrows a wealth of words from the lexicon of music appreciation. Take a deep, fearless sip of a classical Indian raga composition, and you begin to see the parallels. Basically, a raga is a framework within which a solo Indian musician improvises to evoke a particular emotion. Through various (and virtually limitless) combinations of mode, rhythm, tempo, accentuation and ascending/descending melodic constraints, the musician colors the mood of the listener.
The instruments most commonly associated with raga are the sitar and its low-end cousin, the surbahar, and Ustad Imrat Khan is almost universally acknowledged to be the greatest living exponent of these instruments and their techniques. It's not surprising when you consider that Khan's ancestors were court composers for the Moghul emperors of the sixteenth century or that his great-grandfather invented the surbahar.
Your chance to drink deeply of Khan's bold interpretations of ancient ragas comes at 7 p.m. in the garden house of the Old Columbia Theatre (5333 Columbia Avenue). For a mere $35 ($20 for students), you can taste the stately resonance of the musical style perfected by Khan's forefathers over centuries. Tickets are available from MetroTix by calling 314-534-1111. -- John Goddard
R&R and No Relaxing
Of the following musical acts, surely one of them appeals (at least a little, once, on some level) to your ever-so-keen ear: Roy Orbison, Pearl Jam, the Beatles, Jimmy Buffett, Elvis, Gloria Estefan, U2. Found one? Because all of these musicians have something in common, this little task was more than just an exercise in futility -- it was a learning experience. Now before you go writing Marilyn vos Savant to figure out what the commonality is, we'll tell you: They all have either worked with or performed songs written by Buzz Cason. While virtually unknown by name (but not by work), Cason succeeded in the music business not only as a songwriter but also as a performer and producer. And now he is trying on the writer hat. Cason's autobiography, Living the Rock & Roll Dream: The Adventures of Buzz Cason, covers his storied career, which spans more than 40 years. The author is on hand at 7 p.m. at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters (1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard; 314-994-3300 or www.slcl.org) to discuss his book and life, and copies of Dream are on sale courtesy of Left Bank Books. -- Alison Sieloff
Native daughter Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening destroyed her professional career upon its publication in 1899. The story of Edna Pontellier (played by Cory Coleman) and her abandonment of marriage for a lover and the single life scandalized St. Louis but is now considered a precursor for contemporary feminist authors. The Washington University Performing Arts Department presents the stage version of The Awakening at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (October 14 to 16), with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday, October 16 and 17, at the Edison Theatre (6445 Forsyth Boulevard; 314-935-6543). Tickets are $8 to $12. -- Paul Friswold
Back in Black
Journey to the chill horror of Devonshire via Hydeware Theatre's terrifying production of The Woman in Black at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday (October 14 to 31) at the Soulard Theatre (1921 South Ninth Street). Is your heart strong enough to survive the tale of Arthur Kipps, a man slowly unraveling in an empty theater? Can your nerves endure Kipps' journey towards rapprochement with the "Woman in Black," the menacing specter who haunts his dreams? Tickets are $10 to $12, and Thursdays are buy-one-get-one-free, so you can bring a friend for comfort. Call 314-368-7606 for more info. -- Paul Friswold