The Midnight Company will present four plays in 2021, including two St. Louis Premieres and one World Premiere.  The Company, which presented the only live theatre in town during the pandemic with Eric Bogosian’s SEX, DRUGS, ROCK & ROLL in November 2020, and mindful of the fears and realities of the ongoing virus war, will open the season with two one-man plays in June and July.

Midnight’s Artistic Director Joe Hanrahan said, “Last November, we worked with the State’s MissouriArtSafe program, the City of St. Louis and the Kranzberg organization to make sure all safety guidelines were in place and being followed.  We’ll be doing the same going forward, hoping that vaccine efforts will continue to positively affect quality of life, enabling us to provide  quality theatrical experiences for our audiences.”

Hanrahan also said, “If there’s a theme to this season, with theatre coming back it’s appropriate that these shows deal with the theatre and show business.  While HERE LIES HENRY focuses on the Art and Science of Lying (particularly relevant to this age of political and societal falsehoods), Marlon Brando did say ‘Acting is lying for a living.’  Our second show, NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE… specifically occurs during a young man’s introduction to live theatre, of a sort.  IT IS MAGIC, our third show, actually takes place during auditions in the basement of a theatre, and TINSEL TOWN, the season closer, tells three stories set in the Los Angeles entertainment world.”
  
The Company opens with HERE LIES HENRY by Daniel MacIvor, June 10-27 at the Kranzberg Black Box.  It will be directed by Ellie Schwetye, with Joe Hanrahan as Henry, a man in a room with a mission to tell you something you don’t already know.  He’s also a liar.  Midnight has presented two plays by MacIvor (a celebrated Canadian writer/performer) including CUL-DE-SAC, and then HOUSE at the 2015 St. Louis Fringe.  Hanrahan performed both one-man shows, and critics said “ CUL-DE-SAC takes you places you may not want to go.  But Hanrahan makes a spellbinding guide.” (Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch) and “HOUSE is a perfect combination of virtuoso acting and compelling storytelling.” (Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX.)

Tickets for HERE LIES HENRY, a St. Louis Premiere, will go on sale May 10 at MetroTix.com, and prices, performances, capacity and safety procedures will be announced at that time.


Midnight will then present the rescheduled (from 2020) NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE FOR THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS…BOND, JAMES BOND, written and performed by Joe Hanrahan, directed by Shane Signorino, with video design by Michael B. Perkins. It will run July 8-23 at The Chapel.  First presented at the St. Louis Fringe in 2018, the script has been expanded, and Hanrahan said, “The Fringe version of this show had to come in under an hour.  This version, with additional material, should be deeper, hopefully richer.”  NOW PLAYING… is a memory show, of when a teen was introduced, in an unusual way, to live theatre, while the rest of life, including baseball, James Bond, racism, The Beatles, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and more swirled around him.  Michelle Kenyon in Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts called the play “…entertaining, educational, thought-provoking…” and also said it was “…difficult to describe, but what it is is excellent.”

In October, Hanrahan’s short play PATIENT #47 will be presented as part of True Community Theatre’s TRUTH, LIES, and CONFESSIONS October 1-3 at The Chapel.  PATIENT #47 was originally presented at the 2019 Theatre Crawl And later in the month, Midnight will begin to add additional performers to their cast lists. 

Midnight will present Mickle Maher’s IT IS MAGIC, also rescheduled from 2020, directed by Suki Peters, October 21-November 6 at the Kranzberg Black Box.  IT IS MAGIC takes place in the basement of a community theatre.  Two sisters, tireless long-term theatre volunteers but ignored in the artistic process, have finally received their chance to write and act for the group.  While opening night of the company’s Scottish Play goes on in the MainStage above them, they’re holding auditions for the role of the Big Bad Wolf for their new script, an adult version of THREE LITTLE PIGS.  But an inebriated, jaded artistic director and an unexpected, wild Third Sister intrude, delivering dire changes, dangerous chaos and, eventually, magic.  

The cast for the production includes Nicole Angeli, Michelle Hand, Joe Hanrahan, Britteny Henry and Carl Overly.  Chicago’s Third Coast Review called IT IS MAGIC “…one of those love letters to theatre…delightfully wacky,” and New City Stage in Chicago said “Any show that juggles loving critics with tearing their throats out is good in my book.”  

Midnight has previously presented Maher’s THE HUNCHBACK VARIATIONS and AN APOLOGY FOR THE COURSE OF CERTAIN EVENTS AS DELIVERED BY DOCTOR JOHN FAUSTUS ON THIS HIS FINAL EVENING (twice each), and IT IS MAGIC will be a St. Louis Premiere.
And rounding out the year (and rounding out a cycle of plays from three St. Louis theatre artists) is the World Premiere of TINSEL TOWN 3 Short Plays – 24 Hours In L.A. by Joe Hanrahan.  It will run December 2-18 at Avatar Studios, a television production studio on the edge of Downtown St. Louis, near Market and Jefferson, and will be directed by Rachel Tibbetts.   (Midnight has previously presented TITLE AND DEED and LITTLE THING BIG THING at Avatar.)

Joe Hanrahan

 In TINSEL TOWN, Ellie Schwetye and Hanrahan each play characters in the three plays set in the Los Angeles entertainment world.  In LATE LUNCH ON MELROSE, Hanrahan is a talent agent trying to convince his movie star client, Schwetye, to accept the new normal.  In JUST OFF SUNSET, Schwetye is a rock singer/songwriter who’s just finished a frustrating gig at a club, and Hanrahan is a grizzled backup musician who’s seen it all in the industry.  And in SHOOT IN SANTA MONICA, Hanrahan is a British actor brought to Hollywood for a role in a science fiction film, and Schwetye is the director trying to get her first film under her belt.

Hanrahan first worked with Tibbetts when he recruited her to direct an earlier Midnight run of SEX DRUGS ROCK & ROLL, after seeing her direction of BACHELORETTE for her home company, SATE.  Thus began an association between their two companies, with Hanrahan acting in ONE FLEA SPARE, OF MICE AND MEN, DOCTOR FAUSTUS and 2020’s APHRA BEHN FESTIVAL for SATE; and Schwetye directing JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG(with Tibbetts in the cast) and A MODEL FOR MATISSE for Midnight.

But it was during the winter of 2016/2017 that these three did two plays together that demanded a third, sometime in the future, to complete a triptych.  At that time, Hanrahan directed Schwetye and Tibbetts in the vampire drama, CUDDLES, for SATE, followed by Schwetye directing Tibbetts and Hanrahan in Midnight’s Irish thriller, LITTLE THING BIG THING.  So a third show was needed, with (as TINSEL TOWN provides) roles for Schwetye and Hanrahan, and Tibbetts directing.  And thus, the cycle will be complete, and TINSEL TOWN will bring Midnight’s 2021 season to  a close.

By Andrea Braun
Contributing Writer
“King Charles III” by Mike Bartlett is set in the indeterminate future when Elizabeth, Queen of England, has died and Charles (Colin Nichols) is now, at last, King.
We meet him as he addresses the audience and is soon joined by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (Donna Postel); Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (Michael Bouchard); Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Lexie Baker); and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (Jeremy Goldmeier) immediately following the Queen’s funeral.
Harry begs off the rest of the ceremonies, as we might expect from what we know of pre-Meghan Harry; the rest remain to talk. And exactly here is where the play went off the rails for me, and it did not manage to get back on for nearly three hours.

I realize information that the audience may not know must be conveyed through the characters, but Catherine, of all people, cannot possibly be ignorant enough of protocol to think that Charles isn’t King until his coronation three months hence. “The Queen is dead. Long live the King,” etc. Nevertheless, Camilla goes into lecture mode and Catherine (aka Kate) just listens, putting in a word here and there.
There’s an easy fix for that as the action quickly shifts to a club where Harry’s mates introduce him to Jessica Edwards (Britteny Henry), a Republican, who might well NOT know how succession works.
Back to the castle. Once Camilla gets her tutorial out of the way, the family exits and Charles has his first meeting with Prime Minister Kristin Evans (Andra Harkins), and we quickly learn they are at odds over a bill putting some restrictions on freedom of the press that Parliament has passed and now only requires the King’s signature to take effect.
The Queen would have done her duty and signed. But Charles, determined to be his own man, believes no restrictions should be placed on the media. Now, is this about the issue or the true belief of man himself? PM Evans spends most of her time in a frustrated huff, demonstrating that by her decidedly perfunctory curtsies, and it is difficult to blame her, even if one agrees with Charles.
This contretemps between Charles and his government, the ones whose power, unlike his, is not mainly symbolic, furnishes the major plot of the story. Subplots include Charles’s own self-doubt, and his relationship with his wife.
Harry and Jess have a rocky road. They have fallen in love “just like Romeo and Juliet” —that is, quickly and irresponsibly, but their story creates another annoyance: She keeps saying that she’s breaking up with him, but then she’s baaack, every time!
There is the balancing act performed by MP Margaret Stevens (Patience Davis), Leader of the Opposition, to placate both the King and the PM, and the question of who should have the throne, as it has long been known that many subjects prefer William to Charles.
It doesn’t help that Diana, Princess of Wales (Hannah Pauluhn) drifts through a couple of times, telling both her husband and son individually that each will be “the greatest King England ever had.”
The ghost is only one of the many Shakespearian references and allusions sprinkled throughout its five acts. A few more of these include casting Kate as a Lady Macbeth and William her reluctant Lord. It has been called “a future history play,” as it is styled in much the same way as Shakespeare’s own. Blank verse is employed, with touches of prose and a soupcon of iambic pentameter. The King seems weak (“Henry VI,” “Hamlet”), given to the grand gesture when it is not in his best interests (“King Lear”).
Prince Harry is beset with self-doubt (Prince Hal) and he calls himself a “ginger joke.” Even a kabob seller reinforces the younger prince’s doubts representing the common people, worried about the future of Britain; and that when so much of it has been taken away, it really isn’t the country they recognize any more.
Of course, the difference between this play and Shakespeare’s is that we don’t know how this one will come out, so that suspense adds some interest. There is good work from several of the actors, but Nichols could be stronger. In attempting to capitalize on Charles’ perceived weakness, he becomes almost devoid of personality, and if that is a directorial choice, I don’t think it works. Nichols’ is, at least until the last act, a one-note performance. There are hints of “accents” that make one long for a dialect coach.
Donna Northcott is a talented veteran director, and there are certain aspects she handles well, especially moving the actors around the stage and scene changes that are gracefully choreographed.
The play does develop momentum in the last half hour or so, but then someone fluffs (another) line, and takes us right out of the scene. And there were just too many of those mistakes. Presumably they will be corrected during the run.
Robin Weatherall’s sound design is fun and appropriate—varying between classical selections to represent the older royals and rock and roll for the younger. Costumes aren’t always flattering, but they are interesting, particularly Harkins’, Henry’s, and Baker’s. But Davis’s character only gets one brown suit? S.H. Boygan’s set is simple with basic elements added and shifted as needed. He seems to have done a lot with a little.
Britteny Henry and Dustin AllisonOverall, I’d choose James Reiss (Dustin Allison), Press Adviser, as best in show. It’s not that he doesn’t make mistakes like nearly everyone else, but he has many balls in the air and handles them all with a sort of jittery style, and he’s funny. There is more humor in the text than is noticeable in performance.
Davis is excellent and Harkins, is properly strong in her portrayal of where the real power lies. The actors who play multiple parts—the aforementioned Pauluhn is very good as a TV producer, Michael B. Perkins and William Pendergast are fine in all their roles.
The only exception here is Jeff Lovell, who as the Speaker of the House and the Archbishop of Canterbury, needs to back off a bit, lest he remind us even more of Peter Cook in “The Princess Bride” than he already does..
I am aware of the awards and nominations “King Charles III” has received since its first mounting in 2014, but this production by St. Louis Shakespeare doesn’t make it clear why it has been so honored.
“King Charles III” opened Aug. 17 with weekend performances, and continues next week with a Thursday performance Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Evenings are at 8 p.m. Aug. 24 and 25, and Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan Ave. Tickets are available through brownpapertickets.com.

Photos by Ron James