'Chorus Line,' 'Jane Eyre,' and 15 More Plays Coming This Spring; THEATER - SPRING ARTS PREVIEW

Article excerpt

People used to speak of a theater season. But that doesnt mean much any more. Nowadays in St. Louis, its always theater season, and this spring is no exception. Look at the stages around town, and youre almost certain to find the kind of theater youre looking for.

CONFLICT

When nations take up arms, its not strictly a matter of rulers and warriors. War Horse tells the story of Joey, a beautiful creature claimed by the British army for service in World War I. But the boy who loved Joey at home is determined to find him in battle. Based on a childrens book by Michael Mopurgo, the play is celebrated for its extraordinary use of puppetry including two life-size horse puppets and an irresistible goose. Although the puppets are amazing, you cant bring them to life without using your imagination which is the special gift of this show. (March 13-24 at the Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard. $15-$74, 314-534-1111; MetroTix.com.)

The Black Rep is staging two plays that take place in the aftermath of other wars. The Whipping Man, by Matthew Lopez, is set at a ruined plantation just after the Civil War. The owner, a Jewish man, was wounded in fighting for the Confederacy. When he returns, two former slaves, who also are Jewish, observe Passover the festival of freedom with him.

It will be followed by Smash/Hit!, a drama about a hip-hop artist trying to put his career and his relationships back together when he returns from service in Iraq. Written by Steve Broadnax and Michael Bordner, the play makes its world premiere here. (The Whipping Man, March 20-April 13; Smash-Hit!, April 24-May 18. Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. $20-$47, 314-534-3810; theblackrep.org.)

Conviction, a one-man play at the New Jewish Theatre, looks at a much older conflict. Set in medieval Spain, it tells the fact-based story of a priest who was born to a Jewish family and, as an adult, falls in love with a Jewish woman. At that time and place, when church and state stood united in virulent anti-Semitism, they were doomed. Ami Dayan, who translated Oren Neemans Hebrew script into English, plays all the roles. (April 4-14 at the Wool Studio Theatre at the Jewish Community Centers Staenberg Family Complex, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. $37-$39, 314-442-3283; newjewishtheatre.org.)

INTIMACY

David Ives Broadway hit Venus in Fur blurs all kinds of lines between comedy and drama, pleasure and pain, power and desire in an offbeat backstage story. When an ambitious actress who wants the lead in a new show auditions for the writer/director, we think we know whos in charge. But we could be mistaken.

A different couple infuse passion with greed and murder in the noir drama Double Indemnity. Based on a novel by James M. Cain, it was famously filmed in 1944. This stage adaptation maintains the storys icy demeanor. Both Venus in Fur and Double Indemnity are staged by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. (Venus in Fur, March 6- 24 in the Emerson Studio Theatre, $39-$60; Double Indemnity, March 13-April 7 on the Browning Mainstage, $16-$79. Both in the Loretto- Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road. 314-968-4925; repstl.org.)

In Jordan Harrisons darkly comic Maple and Vine at HotCity Theatre, an exhausted couple opts out of the information age, making a conscious decision to flip the calendar back to the 1950s. Redecorating their house and restyling their lives, they discover that simplicity is more complicated than it looks. (May 3-18 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard. 314-289-4063; hotcitytheatre.org.)

Another contemporary couple look for answers to their big issue their misbehaving pet by hiring a famous trainer. But Day of the Dog, written by Daniel Damiano, uncovers a difficult truth: The dog isnt the one with problems. The comedy makes its world premiere at the St. Louis Actors Studio. (March 8-24 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle Avenue. $30, 314-458-2978; stlas.org.)

MUSICALS

If you enjoy the sparkle of song and dance, you can look forward to two legendary shows playing here in the weeks ahead. …