By Lynn Venhaus
The Splatter Zone is open at “Evil Dead: The Musical,” which starts its campy run at Stray Dog Theatre. What else goes bump in the night? “The Zombies of Penzance” are shambling at New Line Theatre, only they sing and dance on their quest to eat flesh.
Talk about timely. Stories taken from the headlines open — Local playwright Mariah Richardson’s new play on the opioid crisis, ‘Chasing the White Rabbit,” is up at the Touhill and the Clayton Community Theatre is marking the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s hate-crime death with “The Laramie Project.”
Also opening are “The Tempest” with St. Louis Shakespeare providing a feminist spin and “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” with Mustard Seed Theatre offering a provocative look at sin, grief and grace — with a cast of 27 and several women taking on male saints and sinners.
In continuing productions, women are driving the plots: Taking up 15 years after Nora left, “A Doll’s House, Part II” opens at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, white male privilege is rampant in Lillian Hellman’s 1939 drama “The Little Foxes” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio, the Comden-Green chestnut “Bells Are Ringing” is at Alpha Players, and Elle Wood’s shows it’s not hard in “Legally Blonde” at KTK Productions. “Chef” and “Raging Skillet” are serving up food for thought at Upstream and New Jewish theaters.
The air is crisp, the sun goes down early, and it’s perfect for me-time to sit inside in the dark and be transported to another place. GO SEE A PLAY!
“Bells Are Ringing”
Oct. 12, 13 at 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.
Florissant Civic Center Theatre
Parker Road at Waterford Drive in Florissant
Box Office: 314-921-5678
What It’s About: Ella Peterson is an operator for an answering service run by her cousin, Sue. Lacking excitement in her personal life, Ella starts becoming involved in the lives of the service’s clients, including a struggling playwright, Jeffrey Moss
Director: David Wicks
Starring: Lisa Rosenstock, Jeff Kargus, Mary McCreight, Nori Rhodes, Brittany Hester, Marlee Wenski, Bob Veatch, Priscilla Case, Dan Stockton, Steven Cook, Sydnee Edward, Mike Nash and Glenn Guillermo.
“Chasing the White Rabbit”
University of Missouri at St. Louis
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Touhill Center for the Performing Arts
Free admission, open to public
What It’s About: 15-year-old Alice, has recently lost her mother and the only thing that she feels that can save her is to go to a school far away from her hood. To go where the neighborhoods are well manicured and the school has resources and new books and good teachers. This is her dream. Is it a dream? After taking a prescription medication she falls deep into what she believes is the school she longs to go to. But all is not what it seems.
Of Note: Original play by Mariah Richardson of St. Louis. “Chasing the White Rabbit” is a contemporary adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland,” with a focus on the opioid epidemic that is currently ravaging our country.
Free admission. Play for mature audiences.
All shows at 8 p.m. except Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center (Grand and Olive)
Box Office Hotline: 314-669-6382
Running time: 1 hr., 15 min.
What It’s About: “Chef” is the gripping story of how one woman went from being a haute-cuisine head chef to a convicted inmate running a prison kitchen. Leading us through her world of mouth-watering dishes and heart-breaking memories, Chef questions our attitudes to food, prisoners, violence, love and hope.
Director: Marianne de Pury
Starring: Linda Kennedy
Of Note: U.S. premiere of “Chef” by UK/Egyptian playwright and poet Sabrina Mahfouz.
Photo by ProPhotoStl.com
“A Doll’s House, Part II”
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Oct. 11 – Nov. 4
Browning Mainstage, Loretto-Hilton Center
130 Edgar Roadwww.repstl.org
What It’s About: Lucas Hnath’s audacious sequel was written more than 135 years after Henrik Ibsen’s original. The familial drama remains a foundational piece of theater, with a still-controversial ending in which a married woman chooses to walk out on her family. But in 2017, Hnath took the themes and characters of that familiar classic and flipped them on their heads, imagining what would happen if protagonist Nora Helmer returned home 15 years after her dramatic exit.
Director: Timothy Near
Starring: Caralyn Kozlowski, Andrea Abello, Michael James Reed, Tina Johnson
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Clinton County Showcase
Oct. 5 – 7 and 12-14
Avon Theatre, 525 N. Second St., Breese, Ill.
What It’s About: An oddball cast of has-been actors revive their careers in ‘Drop Dead!,’ a potboiler murder mystery directed by ‘Wonder Child of the Broadway Stage’ Victor Le Pewe. At the dress rehearsal, the set falls, props break, and the producer and an actor are murdered. But the show must go on! During the opening night performance, the murders continue. The remaining thespians must save the show and their careers, solve the mystery, and stay alive for curtain call.
“Evil Dead: The Musical”
Stray Dog Theatre
Oct. 11 – 27
Added performance Wednesday, Oct. 24
Tower Grove Abbey
What It’s About: Based on the 1980s cult classic “Evil Dead” films, this campy show bursts with farce and blood. Five college kids take a trip to a remote cabin in the woods and encounter ancient evil spirits and revenge-seeking Candarian demons.
Director: Justin Been, with music direction by Jennifer Buchheit and choreography by Sam Gaitsch.
Starring: Riley Dunn, Dawn Schmid, Maria Bartolotta, Josh Douglas, Stephen Henley, Jennelle Gilreath, Kevin O’Brien, Corey Fraine and Christen Ringhausen.
Of Note: Some performances are sold out, and tickets are predicted to be limited during run. As of Oct. 11, Friday, Oct. 12 and Sat., Oct. 13 performances are sold out Wait lists will begin nightly at 7 p.m. (when the lobby opens) at the box office for any unclaimed seats and those will be handed out at 7:55 p.m.
The Splatter Zone is considered Signature Seating. With your purchase of a “Splatter Zone” seat you also receive an exclusive T-Shirt with just enough white space for us to create a one-of-a-kind souvenir.
Those adventurous enough to sit in the “Splatter Zone” are encouraged to dress down. Stray Dog Theatre is not responsible for property damage or loss resulting from the “Splatter Zone.”
“The Laramie Project”
Clayton Community Theatre
Oct. 11 – 21
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Washington University South Campus Theatre (old CBC high school)
What It’s About: Based on the true story of gay Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old victim of a hate crime in 1998 in Laramie, Wy., “The Laramie Project” unfolds through the words of people in Laramie who were interviewed by members of Tectonic Theater Company in the 18 months following Matthew Shepard’s death (Oct. 12, 1998), creating a portrait of the community and key individuals in the aftermath of the event and as the victim’s killers were brought to trial and convicted.
Director: Jim Danek
Starring: Jim Abels, Kelly Hunter, Jack Janssen, Mark Lull, Tim Naegelin, Elizabeth Penny, Tina Renard, Larry Sappington, Rob Tierney, Johnathon Waller, Chrissie Watkins
Of Note: This is the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death.
In connection with its production, Clayton Community Theatre will be hosting post-show discussions of the issues raised in the play on Friday, Oct. 12 (the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death) and Friday, Oct. 19. These conversations will be hosted by Denny Patterson, who has studied the Shepards, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and their ongoing legacy.
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot”
Mustard Seed Theatre
Oct. 10 – 28
Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., No Friday
Fontbonne University Fine Arts Theatre
6800 Wydown Blvd.www.mustardseedtheatre.com
What It’s About:
Director: Adam Flores, resident artist
Starring: Courtney Bailey Parker, Rae Davis, Graham Emmon, Carmen Garcia, Chelsea Krenning, Erick Lindsey, Carl Overby, Chandler Spradling, Arielle Rovinsky, Rachel Tibbetts, Chris E. Ware, and Eric Dean White
Of Note: Mature/adult subject matter, language and content. Not recommended for children.
There are no Friday performances.
Thursday evening performances on Oct. 18 and 25 are Pay With A Can/Pay What You Can performances.
Oct. 5 – 14
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Southampton Presbyterian Church
What It’s About: Elle Woods appears to have it all. Her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend Warner dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law. Determined to get him back, Elle geniously charms her way into the prestigious law school. While there, she struggles with peers, professors and her ex. With the support of some new friends, though, Elle quickly realizes her potential and sets out to prove herself to the world.
Cast: Sarah Polizzi, Elle; Kevin Kickham, Emmett; Natalie Torrence, Paulette; Kyle Kelesoma, Professor Callahan; Kyle Kranes-Rutz, Warren; Kathy Dailey, Vivienne; Rachel Livingston, Brooke; and Jon Bray, Kyle the UPS guy.
Photo by Patrick Huber“The Little Foxes”
St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Sept. 28 – Oct. 14
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle
What It’s About: Lillian Hellman’s drama about greed and ambition, set in Alabama in 1900. Regina Giddens and her ruthless clan clash as they try to strike the deal of their lives.
Director: John Contini
Starring: Kari Ely, Laurie McConnell, William Roth, Bob Gerchen, Wendy Greenwood, Bridget Bassa, Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Chuck Brinkley, Richard Lewis and Dennis Jethroe II.
Of Note: Far from a sentimental look at a bygone era, the play has a surprisingly timely resonance with important issues facing our country today.
Photo by Patrick Huber
Kathleen Sitzer, Sarajane Alverson and Erin Renee Roberts in “Raging Skillet,” Photo by Eric Woolsey“Raging Skillet”
New Jewish Theatre
Oct. 4 – 21
JCCA Wool Theatre, Creve Coeur
What It’s About: A tasty adaptation of celebrity Chef Rossi’s autobiographical memoir, “Raging Skillet” – is equal parts book launch, cooking demonstration, heaping helping of comedy and a side of Jewish mother guilt. When Rossi’s Jewish mother discovers the microwave, home-cooked meals become a thing of the past. What starts as a rebellion against her Orthodox parents, chauvinism in the kitchen and the pressures of conformity ends with Rossi becoming New York’s #1 punk-rock, Jewish, Lesbian caterer. This hilarious and heartfelt new comedy is based on her true-life story.
Director: Lee Anne Mathews
Starring: Sarajane Alverson as Chef Rossi, Kathleen Sitzer as her mother, and Erin Renee Roberts as DJ Skillet, sous chef and part-time DJ.
Of Note: Talkbacks scheduled for Oct. 14 and 18.
There is food.
St. Louis Shakespeare
Oct. 12 – 21
What It’s About: A story of shipwreck and magic, “The Tempest” begins on a ship caught in a violent storm. Alonso, the king of Naples, is on board. On a nearby island, the exiled Duke of Milan, Prospero, tells his daughter, Miranda, that he has caused the storm with his magical powers.
Director: Patrick Siler
“The Zombies of Penzance”
New Line Theatre
Sept. 27 – Oct. 20
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.
The Marcelle Theater
3310 Samuel Shepard Drive in Grand Arts Center
What It’s About: The world premiere of the rock musical, “The Zombies of Penzance: At Night Come the Flesh Eaters,” is based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Based on the conceit that the original draft, never seen before, was dated December 1878, Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn’t want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance, for obvious reasons.
Co-Directors: Scott Miller and Mike Windsor-Dowdy. Miller has painstakingly reassembled these rediscovered materials into their original form, filling in the gaps with educated guesses based on other G&S shows and drafts. St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes is reconstructing Sullivan’s music.
Cast: Most of the cast from New Line’s public reading in January will return, with Sean Michael as Frederic, Melissa Felps as Mabel, Zachary Allen Farmer as Major-General Stanley the Zombie Hunter, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor as the Zombie King, with Mara Bollini, Kent Coffel, Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Lindsey Jones, Tim Kaniecki, Kyle Kelesoma, Melanie Kozak, Sarah Porter, Christina Rios, and Kimi Short.
Of Note: New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical theatre,” opens its 28th season of adult, alternative musical theatre. New Line has shocked the music world by discovering a controversial, long-lost first draft by the legendary British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, who together wrote 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896.
One of the team’s best-known works, The Pirates of Penzance, originally debuted in New York in 1879, and was revived to great success in the early 1980s with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, and Rex Smith. What we now know is that there was an earlier, stranger draft of the show, which nobody knew about, with most of the same characters but a somewhat different plot.
In 2013, New Line Theatre artistic director Scott Miller discovered the original manuscripts for “The Zombies of Penzance” in the second sub-basement of the Judson Memorial Church in New York, hidden beneath some moldy band parts from Rockabye Hamlet and Shogun the Musical, and Miller set about reconstructing the bizarre original show as G&S intended. Gilbert’s living dead and their Zombie King now make their long-delayed world premiere.
Voices of Valhalla: A Hayride Through History
Oct. 5 – 13
Valhalla Cemetery and The Hawthorne Players
MariWhat It’s About: Hayrides through Valhalla Cemetery depart every fifteen minutes beginning at 6:30 each evening as members of the Hawthorne Players portray some of the noted locals buried in Valhalla. Valhalla Cemetery is located at 7600 St. Charles Rock Road.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.