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The parlor of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas served as a threshold to modernism. The storm of minds that defined the new century in the Paris of the '20s -- Hemingway, Picasso, Pound, Eliot -- took toast and tea in that parlor. But as Gertrude and Alice: A Likeness to Loving reveals, there was much more to these women's lives than the company they kept. In recent years, Stein has emerged as a modernist pioneer, equal -- if not superior -- to those she entertained. And the relationship between the two women is a heroic intimacy that this play honors through inventive stage narration. Obie Award-winning director Anne Bogart calls Stein her "artistic mother" and says she finds that her own staging is inspired by the way Stein "moved words on the page." Bogart and performers Lola Pashalinski (Alice, left) and Linda Chapman (Gertrude, right) have constructed A Likeness to Loving from Stein's literature, the women's letters, and Alice's recipes and memoirs. The result is a piece of theater rare in its execution and profound in its effect -- like entering a threshold into a new world. Gertrude and Alice is performed at 8 p.m. Feb. 4 and 5 at Washington University's Edison Theatre. Call 534-1111 or 935-6543 for reservations.

-- Eddie Silva

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