Insight Theatre Company's The Spitfire Grill Has the Spit, Lacks the Polish

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Get to know the locals in Gilead, Wisconsin.
Insight Theatre Company continues its seventh season with The Spitfire Grill, a feel-good tale of redemption that revolves around a diner in a struggling rural Wisconsin town and the few souls who still call it home.

Adapted from the 1996 film, the musical — long on flannel and earnestness, short on nuance and irony — is the sort of show that delivers its folksy charms as predictably as an order of eggs at your local greasy spoon: satisfying if you're in the mood, but they could probably use a little salt.

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Union Avenue Takes a (Mostly Successful) Stab at Wagner's Dragon-Slaying Epic, Siegfried

Categories: Arts

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Ron Lindsey
Marc Schapman and Clay Hilley in an ambitious staging of Siegfried.
Comprising some fifteen hours of music and four distinct operas, Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, a vast operatic spectacle filled with gods, valkyries, giants and mortals, calls for more than 100 musicians. The composer not only devised new instruments to achieve the Ring's signature sound, he also designed an opera house expressly to perform the epic tale. The result? Gesamtkunstwerk — Wagner's notion that through its synthesis of all the arts, opera could transcend a particular cultural context, trafficking instead in the realm of universal myth.

Or at least that was the idea.

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St. Louis Shakespeare's Sweet Little Liar

Categories: Arts

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Kim Carlson
Jared Sans-Agero and Ben Ritchie in The Liar.
As St. Louis Shakespeare continues its landmark 30th anniversary season, completing the Bard's canon and beginning the cycle anew with last month's production of Hamlet, the small company is taking a decidedly modern detour with The Liar, David Ives' sparkling farce based on an obscure 1643 work by the French playwright Pierre Corneille.

Just where Corneille's work ends and Ives' begins is not entirely clear. Although Ives has retained Corneille's structure and written the entire play in rhyming couplets, Ives' The Liar bursts with reimagined characters and new relationships. It is more than a mere translation. It is, to quote the playwright, a translaptation.

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Sadism Is Contagious in the Funny, Gruesome Quills

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Just a prick: Ted Gregory and Caitlin Mickey in Max & Louie's Quills.
This much is true: Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, better known as literature's most famous libertine, the Marquis de Sade, was imprisoned at the Charenton asylum for the final decade of his life. He found a forgiving jailor in the Abbé de Coulmier, who allowed the inmate to continue writing his ribald plays, which were often performed by other inmates. He had a relationship with Madeleine LeClerc, the fourteen-year-old daughter of an asylum employee, and was eventually placed in solitary confinement, where he was forbidden to write.

The rest of Doug Wright's Quills, however? Well, let's just say the playwright took some liberties — liberties that are delivered with relish in Max & Louie's engaging production of the comedy at the Wool Studio Theatre.

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Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll Perks Up the St. Louis Theater Scene with Brilliant One-Man Show

Categories: Arts

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Todd Davis
Joe Hanrahan wins playing a lot of losers.
Oh, come on!

Does the Midnight Company really expect us to spend 75 minutes listening to the fevered ramblings of the aging, vain, brutish and drug-addled misanthropists that populate Eric Bogosian's Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll? Do they really think we'll enjoy — nay, be "transformed," to use one of the character's own formulations — a paranoiac's theory about "The System"? A glib rocker who's come to terms with his own "brilliance"? Or the Hobbesian malcontent who spits that our world is "held together by gross sentimentality and hypocrisy"?

In a word? Yes. Yes, they do — all that and more.

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Vandal Graffitis Sanctuaria's New Mural, Artist Responds Beautifully

Categories: Arts

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Sean Collins
Faring Purth's mural on Sanctuaria after it was vandalized.
This is why we can't have nice things.

Some idiot vandalized the latest work from new-to-St. Louis artist Faring Purth Thursday. Owners at Sanctuaria in the Grove commissioned Purth to create a mural on the restaurant's east-facing wall, near their new outdoor conservatory, after she completed her larger-than-life, haunting painting of a woman at Cherokee Street and Jefferson Avenue.

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A Streetcar Named Desire: Union Avenue Opera Gambles on Tennessee Williams' Masterpiece

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
UAE takes Streetcar on an operatic journey.
Fresh off its shimmering success with Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata, Union Avenue Opera continues its twentieth season with a very different production: André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, a modern operatic work based on the Tennessee Williams masterpiece.


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Grease: Hot-Rod Musical Fires on All Cylinders at Muny

Categories: Arts

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Phillip Hamer
Grease lights up the Muny.
When a healthy contingent of Munygoers arrives at the outdoor theater garbed in poodle skirts and pink satin jackets, you know you're not in for a night of just any musical theater. You're in for a phenomenon — the phenomenon that is Grease, that nostalgic tale of good girls and greasers that was a Broadway hit before being immortalized in the 1978 film version that starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. The film went on to gross nearly $400 million in global sales. It produced a Billboard-topping soundtrack and spawned four Top Ten singles, forever lodging Zuko, Sandra D. and the rowdy miscreants of Rydell High in our collective cultural consciousness.

So sit back, Fruit Boots. It's gonna be a gas.

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LaBute New Theater Festival Improves With Strong Plays in Second Week

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Caroline Adams, Chopper Leifeit and GP Hunsaker in Susan Steadman's The Thing with Feathers.
Round two of the LaBute New Theater Festival continues this weekend at The Gaslight Theater, and as a general rule, the one-act plays of the second half are much stronger than those of the first. Many earlier works relied on a similar narrative conceit -- strangers meet, secrets are revealed -- but this new raft of plays is more ambitious. The short pieces feature supple writing, plot twists, and plausible resolutions, making for a night of varied and fully fledged dramatic works.

See also: LaBute Festival Returns With a Mostly Entertaining Collection of New Plays

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The Adorably Creepy (and a Little Bit Racist) Skeleton Cartoons of Dr. Crusius

Categories: Arts

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Washington University School of Medicine
January and February.
In an age when advertising was still a novel way to introduce customers to your product, the St. Louis-based Antikamnia Chemical Company printed whimsical calendars featuring morbid-yet-fascinating sketches of skeletons acting out everyday life.

The company's name, Antikamnia, means "opposed to pain," and it produced a patented fever reducer and pain reliever at the turn of the 20th century. Sure, the medicine was technically toxic and made your skin turn blue, but that just makes the skeleton illustrations even more apt.

When the owners of Antikamnia Chemical Company were looking for an artist to illustrate their advertising calendars, they settled on fellow St. Louis College of Pharmacy graduate Louis Crusius, who used his drug-store windows to display the sketches he drew in his free time. Crusius dressed his skeletons in the clothes of the time and gave them funny little sayings or titles, keeping his illustrations lighthearted despite their macabre subjects.


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