BWW Reviews: The St. Louis Actors' Studio Intriguing Presentation of the LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL (Part One)
St. Louis should feel honored that the St. Louis Actors' Studio has established a new summer tradition with their LaBute New Theater Festival which began last week. It is an opportunity for all theater-goers to see fresh one act plays that are both thought-provoking and engaging. As a special treat playwright/screenwriter/director Neil LaBute also contributes a piece each year. This event is truly special and one that should not be missed.
It's difficult to try and create a synopsis for each of these splendid works because each contains twists and turns that would result in spoilers if too much information was revealed. However, I'll try and tread lightly so as not to ruin the experience. First up is Steve Karp's Rubbas, which concerns itself with the plight of a company manufacturing condoms, and the political ramifications of its possible closing that affect a senator seeking to please his constituents. Next is Aleks Merilo's Little Moscow, a one man piece that focuses our attention on a tailor, exploring through his stories to a customer (the audience in this case) the reason he was drawn to becoming a tailor in the first place. Jan Henson Dow contributes I Want to Show You Something, a powerful bit of theater that examines a woman who was sexually abused as a child, but carries an even darker secret with her.
Thomas Pierce's Blue Lagoon follows after an intermission, and presents an interesting look at a future where lifelike robots are utilized to carry out issues of national security. The show closes with LaBute's affecting and unnerving one-act Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, which details the interactions between a man with an unsettling past and the father of a child he encounters during his visits to the park.
Reginald Pierre does fine work as a senatorial aide and as Kip, a father who confronts a man with a disturbing background. B. Weller is also in great form, and solidly performs as a slick southern senator and a desperate American who's in deep trouble for sharing state secrets with other nations. GP Hunsaker is warm and wonderful as a tailor with a tale to tell, and Jenny Smith neatly achieves the author's intent as a modern "drone" on a mission. Emily Baker is sharp as a senatorial adversary, but really shines as a disturbed young woman who seeks out the help of a psychiatrist. Chopper Leifheit offers comfort as Dr. Fisher, and William Roth is simply unforgettable as Bill, a man who cannot seem to escape his past.
The direction is split between Chris Limber and Milton Zoth for this first part, and both do a marvelous job of interpreting and staging these new works. Patrick Huber's set designs for each play are simple and direct, with video projections adding to the atmosphere of each. The costumes and props by Carla Landis Evans also lend credibility to the proceedings. Bess Moynihan's lighting schemes also act to set the mood for each of these startling new works.
If you love theater, then you should make every effort to check out the LaBute New Theater Festival that the St. Louis Actors' Studio is currently presenting. Part one continues through July 19, 2014, and part two will run from July 25 - August 3, 2014.