Play:    “Exhibit”

Group:    OnSite Theatre Company

Venue:    Craft Alliance, 501 North Grand Blvd.

Dates:    April 10, 11

Tickets:    $20; contact 314-686-0062 or www.onsitetheatre.org

Story:    Patrons at the Craft Alliance mill about, observing the current display by Jennifer Angus titled “Locusts & Honey.”  The Canadian-born artist weaves patterns of dead insects into geometric shapes and repetitive styles that at first glance resemble wallpaper, but upon closer review reveal their true nature.

Particularly fascinated by this is a middle-aged woman stylishly dressed in black.  She holds sway in the viewing area, freely dispersing her opinions about this particular exhibit as well as all manner of contemporary culture.  The bug motif, e.g., allows her to spin into references to “The Fly,” “Aliens” and “Starship Troopers” and even science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein.

    The Art Lover has a passion for artists and their work, and conjectures freely about their inspiration as well as their creations.  When she sees a studious young man strolling about, she pegs him as one of those creative sorts.  And when he asks her about a curious young woman furtively glancing about the gallery, she naturally assumes that the young lady, also dressed entirely in black as is the young man, is an artist herself.

    The young man’s quest to learn more about the young woman takes the gallery’s patrons, including the Art Lover, on a journey that reveals much more than the lifeless forms on the walls.

Highlights:    OnSite Theatre, under the guidance of artistic director Ann Marie Mohr and managing director Kristen Edler, has carved out an unusual niche on the local theater scene by presenting site-specific theater, works that are inextricably integrated into the location in which they are performed.  Previous productions have taken place in a bowling alley and in a photographer’s studio. 

Written by St. Louis actor and playwright Joe Hanrahan, this world premiere effort is a richly woven tapestry that is at once beguiling and captivating.  In little more than 45 minutes Hanrahan takes us into a different ‘exhibit,’ where the Art Lover, played impeccably by Margeau Baue Steinau, is so pre-occupied with the meaning of art that she sadly misses the simplest expressions of human contact.  It’s a beautifully written piece given a glowing interpretation by Steinau and her colleagues Andy Neiman and Sarah Cannon.

Other Info:    Director Annamaria Pileggi cleverly shapes the production with sharp directorial skills that keep the focus on the players in this wide open performance space.  With the able assistance of stage manager Joy Ryan and the actors themselves, she takes the audience on a poignant trek throughout the two floors of the gallery that is both illuminating and obfuscated, depending upon the character making observations.

    Cannon stalks the space as a woman emotionally burned by a lover who has taken her for a painful ride while fueling his own need for artistic “expression,” while Neiman nicely underplays his scenes, both in his subtle entrance as well as his reactions to the others characters.

    In one of the episodes of the classic TV series, “The Prisoner,” a genial old fellow tells a wide-eyed young woman in the totalitarian Village that “we’re all pawns, my dear” while playing at an outdoor chess table.  Likewise, “Exhibit” reminds us of the constant challenge in human connections in a studied, engaging fashion.

Rating:    A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.