The chance to get as close to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra musicians as a groupie can is yours at the latest Onstage at Powell concert, tonight at 7. Twelve SLSO players of the violin, viola, cello, trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba and piano honor Black History Month with tunes by Scott Joplin, Thelonious Monk, William Grant Still and Beethoven (apparently the Kreutzer Sonata was written for a West Indian violin virtuoso). If the 80-or-so seats onstage fill up, the public is invited to occupy the $91 seats in the front rows for free. Call 314-286-4432 or visit www.slso.org for more on the concert at Powell Symphony Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard).
Thursday, February 20
Have you checked out the spooky, fascinating exhibit of toys at the City Museum (701 North 15th Street)? Mycropolis: City of Toys is the personal collection of a fellow named Coyote, and he's arranged it in a manner that every toy collector would probably love to emulate. The toys are in a triptych behind glass; in the first section, figures from Todd MacFarlane's Spawn series are arranged in a grand battle, with cyborgs, samurais and witches clustered beneath warriors riding flying creatures. In the second area, a vast collection of Transformers communes in a robot jamboree. The last section is scenes from the Star Wars films, re-created with action figures and vehicles. Lord Vader and his retinue arrive in a starship with unfolding wings. Stormtroopers mass in the hangars of the Death Star. A trapdoor is about to drop in the throne room of Jabba's palace. The whole thing is set up in a dim corridor with mood lighting, adding to the bizarre mood. See it through March 16 (314-231-CITY, www.citymuseum.org, free-$7.50).
Friday, February 21
You know Eddie From Ohio? It ain't a person, it's a folk-comedy act playing the Sheldon at 8 p.m. Check out these lyrics from the song "I Don't Think I Know Me": "Now I'm a good driver I watch my speed and I check both ways/and my family takes picnics to the park on warm weather holidays/and we ask all the neighbors and they invite all their friends and kind/and they all bring side dishes and we form one big holiday buffet line/but yesterday, Independence Day, at 85 miles an hour/I plowed that Harley through the buffet line/it occurs to me that I don't think I know me as well as I thought I did." The four-member act is known for sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-thoughtful songs; four-part harmonies; unpredictable concerts; and the beautiful voice of lead singer Julie Murphy Wells. Call 314-534-1111 for tickets, priced from $15-$18.
Saturday, February 22
Claudia Shear's 1995 one-woman show Blown Sideways Through Life was a pitch-perfect riff on the banality of floating from one dead-end job to another. Her search for something meaningful, along with her gallows humor, was hard to resist. A later Shear play, Dirty Blonde, focuses on two friends who may become lovers. Both are obsessed with Mae West: She acts like her, and he ... well, we won't ruin the surprise, but he has a special way of worshiping her. The comedy depicts juicy scenes from West's life and quotes dozens of her salty one-liners. The City Players of St. Louis present the play at various times Friday, today, tomorrow and through March 9 in the rafters of St. John United Methodist Church, 5000 Washington Avenue. Call 314-719-2855 for tickets, priced from $12-$15, or visit www.cityplayers.org.
Sunday, February 23
You know what's hard to find? A complex movie released in the least two years that really makes you think. The Believer is the uncompromising tale of a Jew who becomes a neo-Nazi skinhead. The 2001 drama is based on the true story of a Jew who became a Ku Klux Klansman in the '60s. Ryan Gosling plays Danny, an angry, intense young man who wears swastika T-shirts and "SS" buttons while stomping Jewish seminary students in the street. We learn that he was once a Hebrew-school student, inquisitive to the point of sacrilege, and that now he has an arsenal of creative reasons for hating his people, the world and himself. Complications arise when a motley group of neofascists adopt him as their mouthpiece, he is involved in an assassination attempt on an ambassador and he begins a lusty relationship with a fatalistic young woman (played by Summer Phoenix). This violent, poetic film is shown for free at 2 p.m. as part of the Holocaust Museum & Learning Center Film Series at the center, 12 Millstone Campus Drive. Call 314-442-3711 for more info on the flick, which is introduced by Cliff Froehlich, executive director of Cinema St. Louis.
Monday, February 24
Perhaps the greatest thing about Thelonious Monk was his ability to play the piano with a lit cigarette between two fingers. Not to belittle his grand musical achievement, but the dude just looked so cool with the diminishing smoke in the digits. If you see an old piano with cigarette burns on the ivories, there's a chance it was some Monk imitator who slipped up. Webster University jazz sultan Paul DeMarinis and friends perform "A Monk Among Us" at 7 p.m., a tribute to the pianist with creative interpretations of such Monk tunes as "Four in One," "Brilliant Corners," "Misterioso" and "Monk's Mood." Saxophonist DeMarinis, a trumpeter, trombonist, pianist and Dangerous Kitchen bandmates bassist Dan Eubanks and guitarist Dave Black play in solo, duo, trio, quartet, quintet and septet configurations at 7 p.m. Bring three bucks to Webster's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood); call 314-968-7128 for more info.
Tuesday, February 25
Those who took the ancient elevator to the third floor above the Mossa furniture store for the recent exhibit of sculpture by Washington University students were rewarded with some swell art. In particular, a giant, menacing wooden praying mantis and a hilarious tableau involving a CPR doll and bananas made the trip worth it. A new exhibit in the stripped-down space is even more thought-provoking. It's easy to say that Fontbonne University grads John Hunn and Jennifer Klemp both have an affinity for painting female nudes, but the similarity ends there. Klemp addresses issues of marriage, birth control, original sin and, in one meta-painting, the exploitation of nude female art models. Hunn's work is a delight -- he's working on so many levels. In 1998 he painted an art model in a robe, smoking a cigarette and gazing off at a ... picture of a nude model. The painting, which may bring to mind the works of Giorgio DeChirico, works like a riddle. Another painting, from 1999, depicted a model staring at a painting of herself, nude. Look closely at the inner painting and you'll see ... an even smaller painting of a woman. In his latest stuff, he's thrown in paintings of drawings and statues, too. Apparently Hunn never tires of playing a game that asks questions about what is reality and what is art. Step back from his work and look at yourself: Yes, The Matrix is real. See Klemp's and Hunn's work from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday through March 14 at 1214 Washington Avenue. A reception from 6-9 p.m. Friday, February 21, opens the show; call 314-241-5199 for more info.