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Very, Very Good Person


The Good Person of Setzuan, Bertolt Brecht’s dispassionate and intellectual cry for mercy among human beings receives a bracing staging through the joint efforts of St. Louis Actors’ Studio and Saint Louis University Theatre Department. Director Milton Zoth moves his large cast with balletic grace over, under and through Jim Burwinkel’s magnificent set, a grubby and rickety playground of akimbo corrugated steel that represents the outskirts of 1930’s Setzuan. Kari Ely delivers a tough and tender performance as Brechtian heroine Shen Te, a poor woman who can’t say “no” to any imposition, much to her detriment. Aided once by a trio of impotent and naïve gods (Robert Ashton, Alex Woodruff and Healy Rodman), Shen Te is granted the slimmest chance to improv her lot -- but her love for feckless grounded pilot Sun (Larry Dell, both roughneck and charming) strains her fabled goodness to the danger point. Shen Te is made remarkably complicated by Ely, hopeless and sorrowful but still joyously optimistic. David Wassilak deftly draws a similarly complex person in Wang the Water Seller, a crooked man who tries to be straighter in gratitude to Shen Te’s kindness. Wryly funny, painfully sharp stuff handled with great compassion by a vibrant cast. At Saint Louis University’s Xavier Hall (3733 West Pine Mall; 314-458-2978 or through Sunday, May 3. Tickets are $18 to $25
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: April 24. Continues through May 3, 2009