By Alex McPherson

Shot entirely via iPhone, director Anthony Z. James’ “Ghost” is a thought-provoking exploration of fatherhood, redemption, violence, and how the past informs the present.

The film takes place during a single day and follows Tony Ward (Anthony Mark Streeter), an ex-con re-entering society after 10 years behind bars. Emerging into an unforgiving world that’s moved on without him, Tony attempts to mend fractured relationships, including with his son, Conor (Nathan Hamilton), and chart a new path forward for himself.

Conor is psychologically scarred by his father’s actions and the direction his own life took as a result, but still cares for him nevertheless. Both men are forced to confront whether they will be consumed by their demons or work to overcome them. When Tony’s old boss, Dominic (Russell Barnett), shows up, complications arise. Can Tony escape the world he left behind, or is history doomed to repeat itself?

Even though “Ghost” dips into familiar territory, James’ film is a refreshingly subdued affair, with a pair of intriguing central characters and a strong sense of place.

From the opening frames, it’s clear that Tony feels alienated in the working-class streets of London. Streeter’s nuanced performance expertly conveys Tony’s regret, grief, and determination to turn his life around. He’s prone to brashness, but remains sympathetic. Hamilton is similarly effective as Conor — a youthful individual full of potential, yet held back by his own impulsivity that likely stems from his troubled childhood. Their scenes together, combined with James’ restrained approach, are where the film absolutely shines.

Shooting via iPhone lends a gritty, tactile edge to the proceedings, giving the film a documentary-esque feel at times. “Ghost” is more focused on small-scale relationships than anything else, willing to take an unhurried pace to tell a story that feels grounded in plausibility. Overlooking some occasionally shoddy sound design and awkward camera placements, it’s difficult to imagine “Ghost” being presented any other way. 

The majority of the film unfolds in prolonged conversations that feel true to life, for the most part — complete with awkward pauses and cinematography that creates a voyeuristic, fly-on-the-wall quality throughout. During other moments, James presents shots reflective of characters’ mental states. Tony, Conor, and Dominic are often framed against borders, both literal and figurative, that illustrate their difficulties connecting with the world around them, as well the internal conflicts they individually face.

Despite the film’s success in these areas, however, “Ghost” resorts to predictable beats by its conclusion. While I appreciate how James ratchets up tension in confrontations later on, these scenes betray the naturalistic approach utilized previously — sending the film down a bloody path of genre convention that feels forced rather than organic.

Additionally, James crams too much plot into a short time frame. Coming in at only 85 minutes, I wish that he had given these characters more time to grow, rather than trying to condense their journeys into a single day.

 It’s also disappointing that the side characters surrounding Tony and Conor aren’t given much development. Conor’s ex-girlfriend, Kat (Severija Bielskyte), for example, is used primarily to demonstrate Conor’s misplaced anger, without being given an opportunity to leave much of an impression. Similarly, Tony’s ex-wife, Valerie (Emmy Happisburgh), only features prominently in a couple of scenes, and undergoes a rushed arc that defies believability. Heading into its suspenseful final act, Dominic also gets an exposition-dump-heavy subplot that’s too convoluted for its own good — albeit one that concludes in a darkly poetic fashion.

All in all, “Ghost” is worth recommending to viewers seeking a crime drama with a compelling relationship at its core. Although the final act lacks the finesse that came before, there’s much to enjoy in this promising debut.

“Ghost” is a 2020 film released last summer that is now available on Amazon Prime. Directed by Anthony Z. James and filmed entirely on an iPhone, the film runs 1 hour, 25 minutes. It starts Anthony Mark Streeter and Nathan Hamilton. Alex’s Rating: B

St. Louis’s premiere professional theater for youth and families, continues its refreshed 2020-21 season with the virtual production of Jacked! (available January 21 – March 31, 2021 at metroplays.org). Written by award-winning playwright Idris Goodwin (GhostAnd In This Corner: Cassius Clay) and inspired by the fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk, Metro Theater Company reworked what was initially planned as an in-person touring production into an imaginative, fully virtual experience that combines hand-drawn animation, spoken word poetry, and behind-the-scenes studio footage. Jacked! is set to a fresh, energetic hip-hop score by Jackie “Jackpot” Sharp, featuring vocals and rap by the popular St. Louis punk pop duo, The Knuckles. Actor Jarris L. Williams, who recently played the lead character in Metro Theater Company’s production of Ghost, takes on the role of Jack. 

Jacked! is Jack and the Beanstalk with a modern-day twist. In this reimagined world, Jack and his mother struggle to live happily ever after. When his farm, which was once green and fertile, can no longer feed him; when his community can no longer support him; and when his mother can’t take care of him, Jack takes matters into his own hands. After climbing the beanstalk and stealing the giant’s goose, Jack flees home and discovers the goose’s golden eggs have a mysterious, intoxicating power that turns his world upside down. How can something so good make everything bad? Can Jack turn things around to save his village? 

Created and developed for children ages 5-11, Jacked! fuses storytelling and poetry with hip hop and break-beat music in a multisensory virtual production designed to engage the audience on multiple levels, coming as close as possible to the active engagement of a live performance. It’s also an allegory that uses the familiar story of Jack and the Beanstalk as a launching point to explore the impact of substance abuse for very young audiences, encouraging a gentle dialogue about its effects on our communities.

Directed by Jamie McKittrick (The Girl Who Swallowed a CactusWonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure), Jacked! features hand-drawn animation using artwork by visual artist and theatre veteran Nicholas Kryah, who previously served as MTC’s resident artist for 37 years. Kryah crafted abstract visuals using watercolor, pen and ink drawing, and textured collage designs to make Jacked! feel viscerally touchable despite its two-dimensional delivery method. Editor Michael Tran, inspired by flip books, stop-action animation and early animation techniques, brought Kryah’s designs to life along with Jackie “Jackpot” Sharp’s rich hip-hop score. Costume designer Dorathy Lee Johnston rounds out the creative team. 

Jarris L Williams

WHEN:     January 21 – March 31, 2021

WHERE:    Virtual event at https://www.metroplays.org/jacked

TICKETS:    Tickets begin at $16. Registration is required to receive the link for view. 

Jacked! is available to view for free (or pay-what-you-can) during the opening weekend, January 21-24
MTC is committed to ensure that economic barriers do not prevent families from experiencing its programs. For all winter/spring productions, MTC will offer a four-day pay-what-you-can viewing period to enable those families who may need to register for free to do so.
To purchase tickets, register to view for free during the opening weekend, or for more information, please visit https://www.metroplays.org/jacked
NOTES:    Jacked! is a 40-minute production with no intermission. The production is recommended for ages 5-11. Support for Jacked! is provided by Children’s Theatre Foundation of America. 

2020-21 Refreshed Season
After the opening of Jacked!, Metro Theater Company continues its refreshed winter/spring 2021 season with the following productions—virtual and in-person. Tickets go on sale January 28. To reserve and/or purchase tickets please visit metroplays.org.

And In This Corner: Cassius Clay
(Virtual/Online)
March 22 – April 30, 2021 
Tickets start at $16 / Pay-what-you-can window March 22 – 25
Streaming at metroplays.org/virtual-field-trips
Tickets go on sale January 28.

After an extremely successful pay-per-view run this summer, MTC is pleased to bring back an encore stream of And In This Corner: Cassius Clay, which tells the story of the young man who would become Muhammad Ali and his relationship with a white police officer who introduced him to boxing in Jim Crow-era Louisville. The play was a hit of the 2015-16 theater season and generated numerous accolades for Metro Theater Company, including the Network for Strong Communities’ prestigious Paulie Award for creating positive change through collaborative nonprofit partnerships. Led by Trigney Morgan as Cassius Clay between the ages of 11 and 20, the play was celebrated by the St. Louis American for its “authentic chemistry among the cast” and its potential to encourage audiences “to channel their inner champion and fight for what’s right.” The streaming production was filmed by HEC Media during the play’s original February 2016 run at the Missouri History Museum.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show / La Oruga Muy Hambrienta Espectáculo

(In-Person, Outdoor and Socially Distant; Virtual Streaming Option Available)
April 25 – May 16, 2021   
Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, 210 East Monroe Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63122
Tickets are $18-$36 / Pay-what-you-can window April 27 – 30
More information at metroplays.org/hungrycaterpillar 
Tickets go on sale January 28.

He’s enchanted generations of readers since he first began nibbling his way into our hearts in 1969. Now, everyone’s favorite caterpillar takes the outdoor stage in a dazzling, critically acclaimed production – featuring a menagerie of more than 75 larger-than-life, magical puppets. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is joined by friends from three other iconic Eric Carle picture books: Brown Bear, Brown Bear10 Little Rubber Ducks, and The Very Lonely Firefly. Revisit these timeless classics with the young people in your life in an outdoor, socially distant setting, keeping you and your family safe while diving into a music-filled, big, bright, colorful world filled with transformation and discovery. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is a 60-minute production created by Jonathan Rockefeller and based on the books by Eric Carle. This English-Spanish bilingual production will be a joy for language learners of every age!

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About Metro Theater Company: Since 1973, Metro Theater Company has been creating productions that respect young people’s intelligence, tell compelling stories, stimulate curiosity and provoke thoughtful reflection. The Company has reached a total audience of more than two million and has a national reputation for excellence in the field of professional theater for young audiences. Institutional support for Metro Theater Company is provided Berges Family Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, Emerson, Crawford Taylor Foundation, Shubert Foundation, Whitaker Foundation, Children’s Theater Foundation of America, Missouri Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Arts and Education Council. Metro Theater Company has received major honors and awards, both locally and nationally. The company is led by Artistic Director Julia Flood and Managing Director Joe Gfaller. For more information, visit http://metroplays.org

By Lynn Venhaus
A 10-time Tony winner’s national tour comes to the ‘Lou, world premieres of “The Roommate” and last chance to see a whole roster of shows. There is a feast of choices as we usher March in, and spring can’t be far behind. Here’s what’s on local stages.


“Annapurna”
St. Louis Actors’ Studio
The Gaslight Theatre
N. Boyle Ave., St. Louis
Thursday – Saturday at 8 p.m.
Sunday at 3 p.m.
Feb. 14 – March 1
www.stlas.org
314-458-2978

Laurie McConnell and John Pierson star as Emma and Ulysses in Sharr White’s play about love and loss in the backdrop of the Colorado Rockies. Once married, they have a child, but haven’t seen each other for a long time.

Our review:
https://www.poplifestl.com/oh-those-ties-that-bind-an-extraordinary-annapurna-at-st-louis-actors-studio/

The Band’s Visit touring show

“The Band’s Visit”
Fox Theatre
527 N. Grand
Feb. 25 – March 8
www.fabulousfox.com

Winner of 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2018, this joyously offbeat story is set in a remote town where a band of musicians arrive, lost. They bring the town to life in unexpected ways. This is an adaptation of a 2007 Israeli film, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek. It is performed without intermission.

Here is our review: https://www.poplifestl.com/unforgettable-music-big-heart-distinguish-tony-winner-the-bands-visit-at-the-fox/

“The Ever After”
Curtain’s Up
Saturday, Feb. 29, at 6:30 p.m.
Dunham Hall, SIUEdwardsville
www.curtainsuptheater.com

A cheesy talk show host invites familiar fairy tale characters who have been estranged for 20 years to reconcile on the show.

Brett Amber


 “Flanagan’s Wake”
Emery Entertainment
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza
635 Westport Plaza
Jan. 24 – March 21
www.playhouseatwestport.com

This interactive hit show from Chicago is set in an Irish pub, and Flanagan’s family and friends give him a comedic memorial with plenty o’ pints, crazy sing-a-longs and witty tales.
Cast includes Brian Ballybunion, Fiona Finn (Jennifer Theby-Quinn), Mickey Finn Father Damon Fitzgerald (Patrick Blindauer), Kathleen Mooney, Mayor Martin O’Doul

Our review: https://www.poplifestl.com/flanagans-wake-a-raucous-raunchy-ribald-romp/

“Ghost”
Metro Theatre Company
Feb. 2 – March 1
Fridays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
The Grandel Theatre
3610 Grandel Square
www.metroplays.org

World premiere of a new play adapted by Idris Goodwin from Jason Reynolds’ award-winning bestseller for young readers. Castle Cranshaw, aka “Ghost,” has only known running, but he runs for all the wrong reasons until he meets Coach. Directed by Jacqueline Thompson and stars

“Men on Boats”
The Performing Arts Department at Washington University
Feb. 21 – March 1
Edison Theatre on campus
pad.artsci.wustl.edu

John Wesley Powell’s expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers is a 19th century journey.

“The Mystery of Irma Vep”
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Feb. 14 – March 8
Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus
www.repstl.org

One dark and stormy night…two actors play eight characters, with a few dozen costume changes, a lot of wigs and a blending of classic horror, B-movie mysteries and farce.  
Charles Ludlam’s supernatural comedy includes a newly revived mummy, a mysterious portrait, a family curse and a howling werewolf.

Our Review: https://www.poplifestl.com/campy-farce-irma-vep-cant-hold-audience/

“The Office! A Musical Parody”
Emery Entertainment
March 4 – 8
Wednesday-Friday at 8 p.m.
Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Grandel Theatre
Tickets: Metrotix 314-534-1111 or one hour before showtime at Grandel box office.
www.theofficemusicalparody.com/tour

Dunder Mifflin is opening an office near you. This is the third North American tour of the unauthorized off-Broadway show, written by Bob and Tobly McSmith. It is still playing at the Jerry Orbach Theatre at 210 West 50th Street in NYC.

Mashable calls it “the world’s most elaborate inside job, created with a whole lot of love, just for fans.” It’s a typical morning at Scranton’s third largest paper company until, for no logical reason, a documentary crew begins filming the lives of the employees.

“Picnic”
Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts
Feb. 20 – March 1
Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday at 2 p.m.
Stage III Auditorium
www.webster.edu
314-968-7128

William Inge’s play is set in a small town one Labor Day Weekend in the joint backyards of two widows. One lives with her two daughters and a boarder; the other is a woman and her mother. A studly young man, Hall, comes to town, and the resulting electrical charge causes some friction.

Photo by John Lamb


“The Roommate”
The West End Players Guild
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Sunday at 2 p.m.
Additional Thursday show Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.
Feb. 21 – March 1
Union Avenue Christian Church
733 N. Union at Enright
www.westendplayers.org
314-367-0025

St. Louis premiere of Jen Silverman’s contemporary comedy has been described as “The Odd Couple” meets “Breaking Bad.” Sharon, a divorced empty nester takes on a roommate in her Iowa City house – and Robyn has come from the Bronx. She has a mysterious, shady past who moves around a lot. She is everything Sharon is not — a vegan and gay, for starters. They begin to influence each other in surprising ways.

“Saint Joan of Arc”
The University Theatre at Saint Louis University
Collaborative piece with Prison Performing Arts
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.
Sunday at 2 p.m.
Feb. 21 – March 1
Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N. Grand
Tickets: www.metrotix.com

Inspired by love of God and country, Joan became a 15th century French military leader. This is a contemporary retelling directed by Lucy Cashion.

“Spell #7”
The Black Rep
Wednesday at
Feb. 19 – March 8
A.E. Hotchner Studio at Washington University.
www.theblackrep.org


Ntozake Shange’s Spell #7 is a choreopoem set in a bar in St. Louis frequented by Black artists and musicians, actors, and performers. In a series of dreamlike vignettes and poetic monologues, they commiserate about the difficulties they face as black artist.


“Transluminate”
A short-play festival
The Q Collective
Thursday and Friday, Feb. 27 and 28, at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 29, at 4 and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday at 4 p.m.
The Chapel
6238 Alexander Drive
www.theqcollective.theater

“The Vagina Monologues”
St. Louis College of Pharmacy
Friday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.
Academic and Research Building Auditorium
4531 Children’s Place, St. Louis, MO 63110
Tickets: $5 at the door (cash only) or available for purchase on Eventbrite ahead of time

Note: All proceeds from ticket and dessert sales will go directly to Lydia’s House in St. Louis

Eve Ensler’s play is based on interviews with more than 200 women. With humor and grave, the piece celebrates sexuality and strength. Through this play and the liberation of this one-word, countless people throughout the world have taken control of their bodies and their lives.

The play gave birth to V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against all women and girls. Activists are working to end harassment, rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery. (https://www.vday.org/homepage.html)

It is sponsored by the Department of Liberal Arts and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. For more information, email [email protected]

Lydia’s House works in faith to end domestic violence by being a place of healing and a voice of hope for abused women and their children.” (https://www.lydiashouse.org/)