[ {"id":"79fa6468-bd1a-5339-b73c-21be97cf7dc6","type":"article","starttime":"1534438800","starttime_iso8601":"2018-08-16T12:00:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1534439586","priority":45,"sections":[{"features":"arts-and-culture/features"}],"application":"editorial","title":"A Man of Letters","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/article_79fa6468-bd1a-5339-b73c-21be97cf7dc6.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/a-man-of-letters/article_79fa6468-bd1a-5339-b73c-21be97cf7dc6.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/a-man-of-letters/article_79fa6468-bd1a-5339-b73c-21be97cf7dc6.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":2,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Bryan A. Hollerbach","prologue":"A marvel of majuscules and minuscules graces the recently renovated Gateway Arch museum thanks to a St. Louis-born artist.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["lloyd g. schermer","museum at gateway arch national park"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"1a551c8d-019c-5aa8-9dce-347f78cc6f9c","description":"","byline":"Photo by Sarah Conroy","hireswidth":1746,"hiresheight":1186,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/a5/1a551c8d-019c-5aa8-9dce-347f78cc6f9c/5b759974bfc95.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1746","height":"1186","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/a5/1a551c8d-019c-5aa8-9dce-347f78cc6f9c/5b759974bed8f.image.jpg?resize=1746%2C1186"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"68","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/a5/1a551c8d-019c-5aa8-9dce-347f78cc6f9c/5b759974bed8f.image.jpg?resize=100%2C68"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"204","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/a5/1a551c8d-019c-5aa8-9dce-347f78cc6f9c/5b759974bed8f.image.jpg?resize=300%2C204"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"696","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/a5/1a551c8d-019c-5aa8-9dce-347f78cc6f9c/5b759974bed8f.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C696"}}},{"id":"945fcfd0-c9a1-53b6-a1cc-1b5a96af4c01","description":"","byline":"Photo by Sarah Conroy","hireswidth":1763,"hiresheight":1175,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/45/945fcfd0-c9a1-53b6-a1cc-1b5a96af4c01/5b75997439897.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1456","height":"581","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/45/945fcfd0-c9a1-53b6-a1cc-1b5a96af4c01/5b75997438741.image.jpg?crop=1456%2C581%2C159%2C287&resize=1456%2C581&order=crop%2Cresize"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"40","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/45/945fcfd0-c9a1-53b6-a1cc-1b5a96af4c01/5b75997438741.image.jpg?crop=1456%2C581%2C159%2C287&resize=100%2C40&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"120","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/45/945fcfd0-c9a1-53b6-a1cc-1b5a96af4c01/5b75997438741.image.jpg?crop=1456%2C581%2C159%2C287&resize=300%2C120&order=crop%2Cresize"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"409","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/45/945fcfd0-c9a1-53b6-a1cc-1b5a96af4c01/5b75997438741.image.jpg?crop=1456%2C581%2C159%2C287&resize=1024%2C409&order=crop%2Cresize"}}}],"revision":3,"commentID":"79fa6468-bd1a-5339-b73c-21be97cf7dc6","body":"
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It took St. Louis native Lloyd G. Schermer scarcely anything to place a piece of his art in a national landmark \u2013 just more than half a century, the better part of a ton (if not more) of obsolescent technology and an abundance of talent and tenacity.

The nonagenarian retiree\u2019s 9- by 4-foot Through the Gateway adorns the newly renovated Museum at Gateway Arch National Park, which reopened atop downtown St. Louis\u2019 riverfront on July 3 after a $380 million upgrade and renovation involving the grounds in general.

And how did he react when the National Park Service accepted and ultimately displayed that work (on the outer north wall of the new education center) as part of the metro area icon\u2019s rejuvenation? Schermer replies, \u201cI was thrilled: \u2018Hometown Boy Makes Good.\u2019\u201d

Schermer \u2013 who now lives with his wife, Betty, alternately in Aspen, Colorado, and Tucson, Arizona \u2013 served 46 years, including as president and CEO, with Davenport, Iowa\u2019s Lee Enterprises, the publisher of Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis and Ladue News.

That said, Through the Gateway centers on a square wood-framed simulacrum of famed Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen\u2019s inverted modified catenary curve, which itself frames a period nautical vignette. From that wood frame radiates a profusion of alphanumerics in manifold typefaces in various muted colors, sizes and angular orientations.

Schermer details the obsolescent-tech background to Through the Gateway and many of his other works incorporating paraphernalia from letterpress \u2013 a printing process involving inking and pressing onto paper or something else the surface of a raised/\u201crelief\u201d piece of type or image \u2013 which predated the process of photolithography/offset lithography, which itself predated the current era of desktop publishing, a phrase that increasingly sounds quite quaint.

\u201cIn 1965, when I was publisher of the Missoulian [a daily in eastern Missoula, Montana], we converted our paper from letterpress printing \u2013 raised images like a rubber stamp \u2013 to offset lithography,\u201d he says. \u201cAll of our letterpress type became obsolete and was being hauled to the dump. I don\u2019t know why, but I kept one cabinet of wood type because it was so unique and beautiful. We kept that cabinet in our basement for 23 years and then took it with us when we moved to Aspen. I had no idea this would be my first step to becoming an artist.\u201d

Thereafter, of course, an almost hilarious interregnum ensued. Schermer says he \u201cmorphed into becoming an artist\u201d on taking a course at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado, in 1993, almost a decade before his 2000 retirement. During his early childhood in Granite City, Illinois, he\u2019d worked in clay, but such endeavors \u201cwent into hibernation\u201d when his family moved back to St. Louis in 1938 \u2013 and such endeavors kept hibernating for 55 years.

Artistic experimentation at Anderson Ranch led Schermer to revisit the Montana trove of type. A subsequent showing of his work attracted the attention of the president of the Aspen Institute (\u201ca nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas,\u201d according to its website), who commissioned Schermer to create a piece of work. \u201cI asked what he wanted me to do,\u201d Schermer recalls, \u201cand he replied, \u2018Hell, you\u2019re the artist \u2013 so you figure that out.\u2019\u201d That work, too, involved the Montana typographical trove.

Somewhat after that, Schermer relates, he and his wife made the acquaintance of a Maine couple who had published a New York City magazine and collected wood type for 50 years. Picturesquely, that collection occupied \u201ca bunch of buildings around a small lighthouse,\u201d he says. Less picturesquely, Schermer characterizes the buildings as \u201cfilthy, with spider webs, dust, mouse crap and so forth. I bought the collection and had it shipped to Aspen. It weighed 11,500 pounds.\u201d Thereafter, he also bought more type from Chicago\u2019s Printers\u2019 Row, a neighborhood south of that city\u2019s famed downtown Loop.

\u201cLater, I had a showing in an Aspen gallery, and it sold out,\u201d Schermer says. \u201cFrom that point forward, I\u2019ve concentrated on wood-type sculptures.\u201d

In that regard, of course, Schermer enjoys distinguished company, inasmuch as various high-profile visual artists from the prior century \u2013 still-controversial cowboys like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns instantly spring to mind \u2013 have previously incorporated nonphrasal mechanical alphanumerics into their works.

Also, pieces of Schermer\u2019s own art (some examples of which \u201ccan weigh up to 300 pounds,\u201d he notes) reportedly grace venues like the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Beyond his background in the news industry, Schermer succinctly relates what specifically inspires the typographical motifs so prominent in his works. \u201cI love antique wood type because it\u2019s a unique, lost art form,\u201d he says. \u201cIt comes in all shapes, sizes and designs.\u201d

From work to work, Schermer also explains the aesthetic that guides him in how and why he varies and places typographical elements: \u201cThat depends on for whom I\u2019m creating it. I want to customize the art if possible to fit the situation, much as I did for the Arch.\u201d

Finally, he mulls an inquiry into the strictures of conception and actual creation governing Through the Gateway in specific and his artwork in general.

\u201cThat\u2019s a tough one to answer,\u201d Schermer says. \u201cI do a lot of thinking and conceptualizing. I also try to educate myself and learn more \u2026 I want it to be an educational experience for the viewer and pass along what I\u2019ve learned.

\u201cSometimes [inspiration] comes to me while I\u2019m sleeping. That happened last night. I got a new idea and want to get to my studio PDQ to try it out.\u201d

Lloyd Schermer – Artist, schermerart.com

\"schermer03\"
schermer03
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Hamilton\u2019s Urban Steakhouse & Bourbon Bar added considerable sizzle to the summer just last month, when it assumed part of Charleville Brewing Company & Tavern\u2019s space in St. Louis\u2019 Lafayette Square neighborhood.

The new restaurant comes from managing partners Paul Hamilton, Wendy Hamilton and Jason Arnold of Hamilton Hospitality, which also owns Vin de Set, Eleven Eleven Mississippi, 21st Street Brewers Bar, Moulin Events & Meetings and PW Pizza.

\u201cWe opened the brewery last year, and candidly, we thought it was way too much space and wanted to make it into another restaurant,\u201d Arnold says. \u201cWe looked into what was in the neighborhood and realized it didn\u2019t have a steakhouse. Our focus will be steaks, chops, bourbons and a fantastic wine list.\u201d

Hamilton\u2019s Urban Steakhouse & Bourbon Bar fills approximately 1,200 square feet, with 60 seats in the dining area and another 14 at the bar. The interior design features tree vines suspended from the ceiling, Edison-style light bulbs and a bar made from refurbished hickory. An antique cleaver from Paul Hamilton\u2019s family serves as the centerpiece and logo for the brand.

In the kitchen, chef Brett Buettner prepares a menu that features heritage-breed Black Angus beef from Tama, Iowa\u2019s Iowa Premium, as well as produce from Hamilton Hospitality\u2019s on-site hydroponic greenhouse. All steaks come with a smoky house dry rub.

Aged steaks and chops include 12- and 16-ounce Kansas City strips, a 16-ounce rib-eye, a 16-ounce bone-in veal chop and a rack of lamb chops with mint pistou. Dry-aged steak selections include a 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye and an 8-ounce baseball-cut sirloin.

Diners can dress their steaks with b\u00e9arnaise, chimichurri, bourbon-peppercorn and port-mushroom sauces, while a handful of compound butters made with European-style butter from Kansas City, Kansas\u2019 Plugr\u00e1 are on offer, among them roasted garlic, Korean kalbi and Gorgonzola.

Classic appetizer options include roasted bone marrow with parsley-fennel salad; chilled shrimp cocktail with classic cocktail sauce; and a charcuterie board with assorted house-cured meats, Prairie Breeze cheddar from Iowa\u2019s Milton Creamery, Gorgonzola, a bacon-fat candle and pickled vegetables.

Sides, meanwhile, include roasted wild mushrooms, garlic mashed potatoes and flash-fried Brussels sprouts. Another menu staple, lobster bisque, features sherry cr\u00e8me fra\u00eeche, and salads include a wedge with bacon, blue cheese, tomato, red onion, sherry vinaigrette and ranch. Everything should sound delectable for area residents seeking to catch The Light in the Piazza from R-S Theatrics.

From the beverage list, otherwise, guests can choose from a selection of more than 70 varieties of whiskeys, bourbons, ryes and scotches, as well as an impressive wine list. And last but scarcely least, for dessert, they may wish to sample some low-cal treat \u2013 say, bourbon-chocolate pecan pie with caramel and vanilla ice cream. It also bears noting that a bar menu featuring casual fare is also available, with offerings such as a shaved prime-rib sandwich.

Hamilton’s Urban Steakhouse & Bourbon Bar, 2101 Chouteau Ave., St. Louis, 314-241-2333, hamiltonsteak.com

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Story: Margaret Johnson has taken her daughter Clara to Italy for a quiet vacation in the summer of 1953. While they\u2019re enjoing the artistic sights in Florence, a handsome young Florentine man tracks down Clara\u2019s hat, which has been blown down the street by a strong breeze.

He returns Clara\u2019s hat and instantly is smitten with her, as she is with him. He asks if he can join her and her mother for lunch, but Margaret uneasily declines, fearing he may be after their money. Fabrizio persists, however, and ultimately mother and daughter agree to meet him.

As the romance between Fabrizio and Clara escalates, Margaret\u2019s defense mechanism kicks into high gear for her daughter, a young woman who is physically mature but slow with mental development since she had been kicked in the head by a pony when she was a child. Since that time, Margaret and her husband Roy have been overly protective of their only child.

Nonetheless, Fabrizio brings Clara and Margaret to meet his family, including his commanding merchant father Signor Naccarelli, his doting mother Signora Naccarelli, his worldly brother Giuseppe and his passionate sister-in-law Franca. The elder Naccarelli tries to assuage Margaret\u2019s concerns, imploring her to appreciate life and love as they occur, unaware of Clara\u2019s condition.

When Margaret phones home to Roy, he impatiently cuts her off, telling her he has important business to oversee while also warning her to keep Clara away from overtures by any Italian men. Saddened by her own loneliness, Margaret keeps Clara at arm\u2019s length from Fabrizio but to no avail, as the two youngsters announce their desire to marry.

Shortly before the wedding, Signor Naccarelli learns a disturbing fact about Clara which compels him to forbid the marriage. Seeing him agitated, Margaret suggests that they take another walk together in the piazza.

Will she be able to change his mind, permitting the self-doubting Fabrizio and the mentally challenged Clara to search for their own happiness together? And what will she say to her distant and demanding husband?

Highlights: R-S Theatrics opens its eighth season, \u201cThe Season of the Not-So-Perfect Past,\u201d with the locally produced premiere of a charming and beautifully sung version of this multi-Tony-Award-winning musical from writer Craig Lucas and composer/lyricist Adam Guettel.

Other Info: The Light in the Piazza, which is based on a novella written by Elizabeth Spencer that also was the basis of a 1962 movie of the same title, garnered an impressive 11 Tony Award nominations in 2005, winning six including Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations. The unorthodox musical ran for 540 performances on Broadway from its 2005 previews until it closed in 2006.

It\u2019s \u2018unorthodox\u2019 in the sense that it sounds much more like an opera than a Broadway musical, albeit a well-composed piece structurally and one which allows for rich use of an array of strong voices. Such is the case with R-S Theatrics\u2019 presentation under the loving direction of artistic director Christina Rios and her smartly assembled cast.

Kay Love anchors the proceedings with an affecting performance as the quiet, well-bred Southern lady Margaret, whose outward sophistication belies her own loneliness in a marriage to a man more concerned with his career than with his wife\u2019s happiness. Margaret\u2019s visit to Italy with Clara actually is an attempt for her to recapture the joy she experienced there on her honeymoon more than 25 years earlier.

Love conveys Margaret\u2019s protective and sometimes domineering love of her only child in a well-wrought performance which also allows her to showcase her considerable singing skills. This show works better in the intimacy of the Marcelle Theater than in the cavernous confines of the Fox Theatre, where a touring production of Piazza played back in 2007.

Guettel\u2019s music is lush, evocative and has an old-fashioned feel to it, which accentuates the operatic tunes that frequently are sung in Italian. The two-act musical is performed on an effective set designed by J. Keller Ryan that features a number of rectangular boxes arranged to capture the spirit of a piazza, with enough open space to allow for the graceful choreography contributed by Cecily A. King.

Ashley Bauman\u2019s sumptuous costumes outfit the players in handsome attire of the era, notably Margaret\u2019s prim and proper look and the tidy professional suits favored by Signor Naccarelli. Nathan Schroeder lights everything with soft, muted illumination, while Heather Tucker adds some nice touches with properties which accentuate the setting.

The sound design by Mark Kelley features popular songs of the era, including Italian singers, and Myriam Colombo serves admirably as Italian language coach (at least, it all sounded authentic to me). As for the music, this production led by conductor/pianist Sarah Nelson appears to employ Guettel\u2019s 2008 chamber music version and features cellist Emily Lane, harpist Terri Langerak, violinist Kelly LaRussa and Jacob Stergos on bass.

Macia Noorman and Tielere Cheatem each displays a fine talent for singing Guettel\u2019s intricate and complex melodies, he often in expressive Italian and she in plaintive English. Kent Coffel delivers a compelling interpretation of the sagacious if also stern Signor Naccarelli, sounding convincingly fluent with his Italian phrases.

There\u2019s fine supporting work by Micheal Lowe as Fabrizio\u2019s philandering older brother Giuseppe and Stephanie Merritt as Giuseppe\u2019s hot-tempered wife Franca, who is angered by Giuseppe\u2019s indiscretions but nevertheless determined to make her marriage work. Jodi Stockton does well as Fabrizio\u2019s loyal mother Signora Naccarelli and Robert Doyle nicely handles the difficult role of Margaret\u2019s brusque and self-centered husband Roy.

Ensemble players who handsomely fill out scenes include Ann Hier, Louisa Wimmer, Chris Kernan, Jason Meyers, Melissa Christine, Lindy Elliott and Anthony Randle. Avery Smith is touching in the brief role of young Clara.

The Light in the Piazza definitely seems to work better in a small theater, something which Rios and her stylish cast utilize to great advantage in this presentation. Such a setting is where the needs of the heart can shine best.

Musical: The Light in the Piazza

Company: R-S Theatrics

Venue: Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive

Dates: August 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26

Tickets: $20-$25, contact 314-534-1111 or metrotix.com

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Michael Young

"}, {"id":"6d887c6b-5cd2-5f38-9d62-7f40dfa0cc57","type":"article","starttime":"1533830400","starttime_iso8601":"2018-08-09T11:00:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1533831610","priority":45,"sections":[{"features":"arts-and-culture/features"}],"application":"editorial","title":"LN Special Section: State of the Arts Guide","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/article_6d887c6b-5cd2-5f38-9d62-7f40dfa0cc57.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/ln-special-section-state-of-the-arts-guide/article_6d887c6b-5cd2-5f38-9d62-7f40dfa0cc57.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/ln-special-section-state-of-the-arts-guide/article_6d887c6b-5cd2-5f38-9d62-7f40dfa0cc57.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"As the seasons transition from late summer to fall next month, more than just the temperature will be changing.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["state of the arts"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"083bc4ef-77ff-534f-a8ac-0f70adbdd145","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":1839,"hiresheight":1126,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/83/083bc4ef-77ff-534f-a8ac-0f70adbdd145/5b6c64cca2b09.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1724","height":"1125","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/83/083bc4ef-77ff-534f-a8ac-0f70adbdd145/5b6c64cca1c1f.image.jpg?crop=1724%2C1125%2C109%2C0&resize=1724%2C1125&order=crop%2Cresize"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"65","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/83/083bc4ef-77ff-534f-a8ac-0f70adbdd145/5b6c64cca1c1f.image.jpg?crop=1724%2C1125%2C109%2C0&resize=100%2C65&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"196","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/83/083bc4ef-77ff-534f-a8ac-0f70adbdd145/5b6c64cca1c1f.image.jpg?crop=1724%2C1125%2C109%2C0&resize=300%2C196&order=crop%2Cresize"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"668","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/83/083bc4ef-77ff-534f-a8ac-0f70adbdd145/5b6c64cca1c1f.image.jpg?crop=1724%2C1125%2C109%2C0&resize=1024%2C668&order=crop%2Cresize"}}}],"revision":3,"commentID":"6d887c6b-5cd2-5f38-9d62-7f40dfa0cc57","body":"
\"The
The Big Muddy Dance Company_1.jpg

As the seasons transition from late summer to fall next month, more than just the temperature will be changing. In the arts world, September marks a new season of entertainment, as well, and in that spirit, it\u2019s our pleasure to present\u00a0Ladue News\u2019\u00a0State of the Arts guide.

The following pages preview dozens of local arts organizations\u2019 fall exhibitions, gallery openings, plays, musicals, ballet performances and much more. Divided into four categories \u2013 theater, visual arts, music and dance \u2013 the guide highlights manifold forthcoming offerings in each sector of St. Louis\u2019 rich, diverse and thriving arts scene. We feel incredibly lucky to live in a city with such a vibrant arts community, and we hope our State of the Arts guide acts as a to-go for all of this season\u2019s sensational coming attractions.

To read each section of this issue's State of the Arts Guide, click on the categories below.

Theater

Visual Arts

Dance

Music

"}, {"id":"928dd23c-71f0-507e-9f1b-31eedb91fe25","type":"article","starttime":"1533834000","starttime_iso8601":"2018-08-09T12:00:00-05:00","priority":40,"sections":[{"dining":"arts-and-culture/dining"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Dinner & A Show: Champs On Jefferson","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/dining/article_928dd23c-71f0-507e-9f1b-31eedb91fe25.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/dining/dinner-a-show-champs-on-jefferson/article_928dd23c-71f0-507e-9f1b-31eedb91fe25.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/dining/dinner-a-show-champs-on-jefferson/article_928dd23c-71f0-507e-9f1b-31eedb91fe25.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Mabel Suen","prologue":"Sports bistro fans, take note: Champs On Jefferson just debuted at the start of June in St. Louis\u2019 Gravois Park neighborhood and hopes to impress visitors with a culinary full-court press.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["dinner & a show","champs on jefferson","gravois park"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"d88d98b9-4d25-56e5-9d10-3505676c39c9","description":"","byline":"Photo by Mabel Suen","hireswidth":1763,"hiresheight":1175,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/88/d88d98b9-4d25-56e5-9d10-3505676c39c9/5b69adaf8e08e.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1763","height":"1175","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/88/d88d98b9-4d25-56e5-9d10-3505676c39c9/5b69adaf8cfa1.image.jpg?resize=1763%2C1175"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"67","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/88/d88d98b9-4d25-56e5-9d10-3505676c39c9/5b69adaf8cfa1.image.jpg?resize=100%2C67"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"200","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/88/d88d98b9-4d25-56e5-9d10-3505676c39c9/5b69adaf8cfa1.image.jpg?resize=300%2C200"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"682","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/88/d88d98b9-4d25-56e5-9d10-3505676c39c9/5b69adaf8cfa1.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C682"}}}],"revision":5,"commentID":"928dd23c-71f0-507e-9f1b-31eedb91fe25","body":"
\"ChampsOnJeffersonHiRes-01.jpg\"
ChampsOnJeffersonHiRes-01.jpg

Sports bistro fans, take note: Champs On Jefferson just debuted at the start of June in St. Louis\u2019 Gravois Park neighborhood and hopes to impress visitors with a culinary full-court press.

Champs On Jefferson constitutes a new venture from Spare No Rib and Egg owner Lassaad Jelitti and chef and longtime friend Anthony Stewart. In fact, it occupies the former home of Spare No Rib (which, ironically, returned to its original location in the Polar Wave Ice & Fuel building of St. Louis\u2019 Benton Park neighborhood, where it shares space with Egg).

\u201cChamps is Anthony\u2019s baby,\u201d Jelitti says. \u201cI\u2019m going to be a shepherd in the back in an advisory post. It\u2019s a great position to be in after all these years in the business \u2013 to pull back and give someone an opportunity who always wanted to have his own place and help him with his dream. The food is very good, and they\u2019re keeping things simple, which is great.\u201d

Stewart worked with associate Marlon Whitfield to realize his vision for the eatery, which stems from a love of \u2013 you guessed it \u2013 basketball. It bears noting that Stewart previously worked as a caterer under the moniker The Mixologist, doing various pop-up dinners at Egg, while Whitfield has a background in marketing, as well as in the wireless and music industries.

\u201cThis place is a lot like a suite inside a sports event, so it\u2019s more upscale \u2013 a sports bistro,\u201d Whitfield says. \u201cWe call the main floor \u2018The Infield.\u2019 Upstairs is \u2018The Clubhouse.\u2019 Outside is \u2018The Outfield\u2019 with a \u2018Dugout\u2019 for bands and DJs. It\u2019s really just a unique space. I think it\u2019s one of the hidden gems in South City.\u201d

Champs On Jefferson seats roughly 50 patrons in the dining area, with space for an additional 50 upstairs and 100 outside. Visually, the eatery pays homage to what the sportscasters love to call \u201cround ball,\u201d with basketball and hoop light fixtures and a bright orange-and-gray paint job.

Stewart\u2019s menu items come infused with his own blends of seasonings and spices, which he named after his daughter. His Layla spice, for instance, features a blend of ingredients like pink Himalayan salt, garlic, paprika, turmeric, onion powder, ginger and cayenne. Similarly, the Layla crunch garnish features such components as parsley, black sesame seeds, turbinado, red pepper flakes, oregano and basil.

Guests can try such flavors infusing items like turkey and lamb burgers, served on brioche buns with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and cheese. Additional gustatory highlights include fried mushroom poppers; sweet chili wings or nuggets made of cauliflower; red lentil soup; and chicken tacos \u2013 6-inch tortillas stuffed with chicken thigh, onions, red and green peppers, and house taco sauce.

From the bar, tipplers can choose from five beers on tap and cocktails like Champ\u2019s Punch, a refreshing libation made with vodka, papaya juice, Sprite and additional fruit juices. Other concoctions by bartender Brittany \u201cB-Starr\u201d Starr are Basil Island Tea and The People\u2019s Champ shot \u2013 a red-white-and-blue layered shot. Champs also offers the joys of the hookah, available upstairs and on the back patio.

All things considered, Champs On Jefferson sounds like a fun, lively eatery to visit before enjoying a performance of The Robber Bridegroom from Stray Dog Theatre. [LN dingbat]

Champs On Jefferson, 3701 Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, 314-354-8444, facebook.com/pg/champs-on-jefferson-2504826979741555

"}, {"id":"57ca46a7-85cc-504b-afb5-1681cf8db792","type":"article","starttime":"1533834000","starttime_iso8601":"2018-08-09T12:00:00-05:00","priority":35,"sections":[{"columns":"arts-and-culture/columns"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Ready Readers: Finding Calm","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/columns/article_57ca46a7-85cc-504b-afb5-1681cf8db792.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/columns/ready-readers-finding-calm/article_57ca46a7-85cc-504b-afb5-1681cf8db792.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/columns/ready-readers-finding-calm/article_57ca46a7-85cc-504b-afb5-1681cf8db792.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":2,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Sheila Oliveri","prologue":"Before sending the kids back to school, parents may want to begin a new practice to help equip them for the year ahead: slowing down and finding calm.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["ready readers","mindfulness"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"39e8ec79-a776-59e6-be3a-30e3ddc51d37","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":1438,"hiresheight":1441,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/9e/39e8ec79-a776-59e6-be3a-30e3ddc51d37/5b6c5d0c3ddad.hires.jpg","presentation":null,"versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1438","height":"1441","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/9e/39e8ec79-a776-59e6-be3a-30e3ddc51d37/5b6c5d0c3ccd6.image.jpg?resize=1438%2C1441"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"100","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/9e/39e8ec79-a776-59e6-be3a-30e3ddc51d37/5b6c5d0c3ccd6.image.jpg?resize=100%2C100"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"301","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/9e/39e8ec79-a776-59e6-be3a-30e3ddc51d37/5b6c5d0c3ccd6.image.jpg?resize=300%2C301"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"1026","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/9e/39e8ec79-a776-59e6-be3a-30e3ddc51d37/5b6c5d0c3ccd6.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C1026"}}},{"id":"dadf0a97-b565-57a5-9549-22752b788dfc","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":null,"versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"450","height":"398","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/ad/dadf0a97-b565-57a5-9549-22752b788dfc/5b6c5d0c7b4b3.image.jpg?resize=450%2C398"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"88","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/ad/dadf0a97-b565-57a5-9549-22752b788dfc/5b6c5d0c7b4b3.image.jpg?resize=100%2C88"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"265","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/ad/dadf0a97-b565-57a5-9549-22752b788dfc/5b6c5d0c7b4b3.image.jpg?resize=300%2C265"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"906","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/ad/dadf0a97-b565-57a5-9549-22752b788dfc/5b6c5d0c7b4b3.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":8,"commentID":"57ca46a7-85cc-504b-afb5-1681cf8db792","body":"

August finds many families suffering late-summer fatigue from the hustle and bustle of vacations, travel and so forth. Before sending the kids back to school, though, parents, you may want to begin a new practice to help equip them for the year ahead: slowing down and finding calm.

Mindfulness has become a buzzword in these busy times, with countless books extolling the daily practice. Since the concept centers on lessening the stress in our lives, we at Ready Readers encourage you to begin with a few books that encourage families to pause, listen, think, notice and appreciate together.

\"abc
abc mindful me.jpg

Our first recommendation, ABC Mindful Me by author/illustrator Christiane Engel, gently introduces the basic tenets of mindfulness.

Despite the familiarity of format of an alphabet book, the concepts chosen here for each letter plumb far deeper than the typical \u201cA is for Apple.\u201d Engel succeeds in creating an engaging visual backdrop for the sometimes amorphous alphabetical subjects. Using a rainbow of colors and a childlike drawing style, she provides important visual clues to bring ideas into focus for both children and adults.

Because ABC Mindful Me presents ways of thinking that children may not have encountered before, enjoying this book together can inspire meaningful conversations among parents, children and siblings. Repeated readings should strengthen not only family ties but also each child\u2019s growing vocabulary.

Our second recommendation, Meditate with Me: A Step-by-Step Mindfulness Journey, comes from author Mariam Gates and illustrator Margarita Surnaite.

Its calm, straightforward text and subtle pastel pictures are masterfully matched. Gates begins with simple textual prompts guiding children to perform effortless everyday movements, paying special attention to ordinary, perhaps previously overlooked functions: \u201cNow notice your breath, in and out through your nose. Is the air cool? Is it warm?\u201d Meanwhile, Surnaite\u2019s friendly elephant child, dressed in colorful clothing, demonstrates the action, closing her eyes and using her curved trunk to expel breath into the air above her.

As the story progresses, various animal characters express a myriad of emotions, including happiness, anger and excitement. Finally, Gates provides a meditation routine designed to help children focus, regulate their breathing, and achieve calm and relaxation.

\"meditate
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Reading and sharing Meditate with Me should be especially helpful for youngsters just beginning to explore emotions and behavioral control. As with this one, our Ready Readers make a point of calling children\u2019s attention to characters\u2019 emotions in the books read during their weekly story time visits to classrooms.

Enabling youngsters to identify and label their emotions equips them with the tools needed to effectively communicate their needs to teachers, peers and parents. Ready Readers also share deep breathing techniques in the form of quiet, focused games, allowing our young friends to feel in control of their outlook and emotions \u2013 important, empowering skills for all, children and adults alike.

We invite you to join our efforts at Ready Readers! We prepare children from our community’s low-income neighborhoods to enter kindergarten ready to learn and ready to read through providing new children’s books and weekly story time visits with trained, caring volunteers. To learn more, visit our website, readyreaders.org.

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\"0818_FST_5569.tif\"
0818_FST_5569.tif

I love spicy food, and I especially crave the heat of chili peppers in the summer, when Midwest gardens overflow with them. Here we\u2019re focusing on poblanos; the smoky flavor you get from charring them, paired with the sweetness of the corn and creaminess of the potatoes, makes for one of my favorite taco fillings.

A good poblano should have a little heat, but not too much. Often the same chilis can have varying degrees of heat based on where they grew, soil conditions and age. To reduce their spiciness in dishes, remove all seeds and other innards. To reduce heat, you also can soak chili peppers in a blend of one part vinegar and three parts water for 30 minutes to an hour. If you\u2019re a pepperhead like me, though, you\u2019ll appreciate the heat poblanos add to these tacos.

Roasted Poblano, Corn and Potato Tacos

Serves 12

Preparation | Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a gas grill cooktop or outdoor grill, set peppers directly over open flame, turning with tongs to evenly char on all sides. Place charred peppers in a small bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and season with a pinch of salt and pepper; stir occasionally and cook until caramelized, approximately 10 minutes. Remove onions to a small bowl, and set aside.

Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil, and warm in oven for 15 minutes. Keep wrapped in aluminum foil until ready to assemble tacos.

In same skillet over medium heat, heat remaining olive oil. Add potato, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Stir occasionally and cook until softened, 10 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, remove plastic wrap from poblanos. Using either a butter knife or your fingers, begin removing charred outer skin. Rinse peppers, remove stems, and scoop out and discard seeds. Cut poblanos into long strips, and set aside.

In skillet with potatoes, add cooked onions and poblanos, plus garlic and corn, and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cream and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until cream has almost fully reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Unwrap tortillas from aluminum foil. Divide poblano-corn-potato filling between 12 tortillas, and top each with cotija and cilantro. Serve.

Amanda Elliott is the chef at Peachtree Catering (peachtreebanquet.com) in Columbia, Missouri, and authors the website Rustic Supper (rusticsupper.com), where she shares recipes centered on the idea of the communal table and embracing the heritage of food through travel. She also hosts a series of pop-up dinners in Columbia called Sunday Suppers.

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Story: Jamie Lockhart fancies himself a \u201cgentleman robber\u201d who specializes in high-class larceny on the Natchez Trace in the year 1795. He doesn\u2019t steal like any low-down thief, he says. Rather, he prefers to finesse his victims, which leads to a popularity among the common folks akin to what Robin Hood once enjoyed in Merry Olde England.

When wealthy plantation owner Clemment Musgrove strolls in to Rodney, Mississippi with a big ol\u2019 bag o\u2019 gold in his possession, he appears to be ripe for a robbin\u2019, and the Harp brothers are only too eager to oblige. That would be dimwitted Little Harp and his brighter but body-less older brother, Big Harp, whose disembodied head is confined to the inside of a suitcase.

Little Harp\u2019s scheme to kill Musgrove and steal his money in a local hotel goes awry when Jamie catches wind of it, and substitutes some straw for Musgrove\u2019s sleeping body. Lockhart convinces Little Harp that, while he\u2019s killed \u2018Musgrove,\u2019 he must now contend with the vengeful ghost of the old man as well as the spirit of Lockhart, too.

Musgrove is so beholden to Jamie for saving him that he invites Lockhart to his mansion to meet his beautiful and eligible, if not overly bright, daughter Rosamund. She\u2019s a dead ringer for her late mother, in stark contrast to Musgrove\u2019s second and quite ugly wife, Salome.

Now, Salome may not be much in the looks department but she\u2019s plenty savvy. She hires the village idiot, Goat, to kill her stepdaughter, heir to Musgrove\u2019s fortune, while she herself aims her sights on the handsome stranger come to visit her husband\u2019s estate.

Unbeknownst to her, Lockhart has met Rosamund in the woods in his guise as the \u201cgentleman robber,\u201d with berry juice smeared on his face to conceal his true identity. Rosamund falls in love with the bandit and thus is unhappy with the prospect of marrying her father\u2019s friend, Jamie Lockhart.

So, Salome wants Rosamund dead, Little Harp wants the gold, Rosamund wants to hook up with the gentleman robber and not marry Jamie, while Jamie looks at the marriage as a business deal which shouldn\u2019t infringe on his love-making with that good-looking girl in the woods. No big deal, right?

Highlights: Stray Dog Theatre strikes gold on its own with its hilarious, high-kicking good time of a production of this infectious musical written by Driving Miss Daisy playwright Alfred Uhry.

Other Info: Based on Eudora Welty\u2019s 1942 novella of the same title, The Robber Bridegroom features a book and lyrics by Uhry as well as music by Robert Waldman. It\u2019s a festive, high-spirited good time of a show and director Justin Been starts this smart, stylish production off on the right note by having the affable Jamie introduce members of the \u201ctown,\u201d who actually comprise the enjoyable band.

Music director Jennifer Buchheit leads the inspired combo from its perch at the rear of stage right from her piano. She\u2019s joined by fiddler Steven Frisbee, Mallory Golden on fiddle and mandolin, Michaela Kuba playing banjo, cello and guitar, guitarist Marty Lastovica and M. Joshua Ryan on acoustic bass and bass ukelele. Not only do they play the bluegrass-tinged score in a high-stepping tempo but they\u2019re decked out sharply in Gary Bell\u2019s sumptuous costumes and even sing a bit, too.

Been designed the appealing set, which features barrels and crates and wooden floors and a background that looks a bit like a circus tent. Those floors serve well for the hoedowns and foot-stomping square dances included in Mike Hodges\u2019 lively and irrepressible choreography, with everything illuminated appealingly under Tyler Duenow\u2019s smart lighting design.

Been keeps this humorous, broad comedy moving along at a brisk pace, aided by several engaging performances. Phil Leveling makes for a dashing and debonair Jamie Lockhart, bringing just enough swagger to his role to make Jamie likable rather than insufferable. He gets everything off to a rousing start leading the ensemble on the comedic opening number, Once Upon the Natchez Trace.

Dawn Schmid is appealing and accomplished as the determined daughter Rosamund, especially engaging as she humorously expounds about Nothin\u2019 Up in her dull, dull life. Jeffrey Wright displays his fine comic chops as the amiable and overly trusting Clemment Musgrove, while Sarah Gene Dowling deliciously chews up the scenery as the stereotypical evil stepmother, Salome, albeit a lusty and salacious version.

Logan Willmore is up to the task of the thick-headed Little Harp and Kevin O\u2019Brien does well with his share of the laughs as the torso-deprived Big Harp. Bryce Miller is entertaining as the simpleton Goat, always two bricks shy of a load, while Christen Ringhausen nicely etches the role of his sister Airie. As Raven, Susie Larwrence amusingly struts and frets across the stage until she meets an unfortunate end.

The talented ensemble is comprised of Chris Ceradsky, Shannon Lampkin, Rachel Sexson and aforementioned members of the troupe, making for fun interpretations of a variety of characters ranging from Goat\u2019s mother to townsfolk to people in portraits put together in Been\u2019s clever design.

If you like bluegrass music or homespun comedy or just a general fun night on the town, stop by and visit with the genial denizens who support The Robber Bridegroom. You\u2019ll be glad you did.

Musical: The Robber Bridegroom

Group: Stray Dog Theatre

Venue: Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue

Dates: August 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18

Tickets: $25-$30; contact 865-1995 or StrayDogTheatre.org

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of John Lamb

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Story: It\u2019s summer 1903 and St. Louis is abuzz with anticipation for the 1904 Universal Exposition, otherwise known as the World\u2019s Fair, which is to be celebrated in the Gateway City during the centennial year of the Louisiana Purchase.

The Smith family, including father Alonzo, mother Anna, son Lon Jr., daughters Rose, Esther, Agnes and Tootie, Grandpa Prophater and Katie the maid, all are looking forward to the glorious festivities scheduled in the year ahead.

There also is romance in the air as eldest daughter Rose is being courted by college man Warren Sheffield, while Esther has her eyes on the new boy next door, John Truitt. Sure enough, love begins to bloom for both Rose and Esther before Mr. Smith comes home one day with some \u201cexciting\u201d news to tell his wife: He\u2019s been asked by his law firm to run its New York City office, a big promotion.

He\u2019s delighted, but the news doesn\u2019t set well with Mrs. Smith nor with Katie, who are instructed to keep it a secret until closer to Christmas. Naturally, the cat gets out of the bag long before that, which leads to some major unhappiness on behalf of all of the Smith daughters, who don\u2019t want to leave St. Louis on the eve of the World\u2019s Fair or, in the case of Rose and Esther, their beaus.

Mr. Smith puts his foot down about the subject, even though Katie and Grandpa Prophater inform him they won\u2019t be making the move. The rest of the family, although resigned to the situation, continues to be unhappy about their impending departure.

Is Mr. Smith\u2019s promotion really that important? Is it worth the extra pay to endure the aggravation the new location will cause his family? And will any of them ever get to see the World\u2019s Fair? Stay tuned.

Highlights: To cap off its centennial season, The Muny presents a new version of the beloved family musical that truly is centered on when St. Louis was at the apex of its history and importance in the United States. Strong performances permeate the season finale at The Muny under the loving direction of Marcia Milgrom Dodge.

Other Info: Actually, it can be a bit depressing seeing how St. Louis has gone down in stature compared to when it once was so vital and important in the eyes of the nation, when it was the fourth largest city in the country (probably after New York City, Philadelphia and Boston) just after the turn of the 20th century.

The Muny, however, dresses up this eighth visit of Meet Me in St. Louis with a magnificent set designed by Michael Schweikardt, from the elegant upper-middle- class home of the Smiths at \u201c5135 Kensington\u201d to the appearance of an actual trolley on stage to an eye-popping background of the \u201cPalace of Electricity\u201d at the World\u2019s Fair for the finale.

That impressive scenic design is enhanced with Rob Denton\u2019s imaginative and evocative lighting and a splendid video design furnished by Matthew Young, impressively showing the construction site in Forest Park pre-World\u2019s Fair.

The costumes created by Tristan Raines speak to the elegance of the period and the relative wealth of the Smith family, complemented with the wig design of Leah J. Loukas. Add the sophisticated and charming choreography contributed by Josh Walden and you have the makings for an upscale musical.

As Muny artistic director and executive producer Mike Isaacson noted in The Muny\u2019s news release, Broadway director and writer Gordon Greenberg revised the book for this special presentation of Meet Me in St. Louis, which includes several songs new to the stage adaptation of the original 1944 MGM movie musical starring Judy Garland.

\u201cHow fitting for our 100th season,\u201d said Isaacson, \u201cwe create a new edition that we hope will be more thrilling or satisfying than any before, and will become the definitive stage version.\u201d

In his program notes, Isaacson observes that The Muny produced the world premiere stage adaptation of the movie in 1960 and that since then Meet Me in St. Louis \u201chas gone through many editions and versions before the world premiere of this latest version on The Muny stage.\u201d

In addition to new script material by Greenberg there also are fresh orchestrations by St. Louisan John McDaniel, most notable on some delightful performances of Scott Joplin rags, another tip to the St. Louis setting. Under Charlie Alterman\u2019s musical direction, The Muny orchestra delivers an invigorating reading of the score.

Emily Walton and Liana Hunt make inspired debuts on The Muny stage as sisters Esther and Rose, respectively, and each showcases a fine singing voice. Dan DeLuca displays a well-matched chemistry with Walton as her boy-next-door love, John Truitt. There also are charming Muny debuts by Elle Wesley as Agnes and Elena Adams as Tootie.

Real-life husband and wife Stephen R. Buntrock and Muny favorite Erin Dilly capably portray Alonzo and Anna Smith, while audience-pleaser Ken Page brings his booming voice and presence to the fore as kindly Grandpa Prophater. Jonathan Burke is a charming Lon Jr. while Kathy Fitzgerald plays her Irish maid role Katie to the max and then some.

Michael Burrell does well as Rose\u2019s boyfriend Warren, Madison Johnson adds intrigue as Lon's forward girlfriend Lucille Ballard, Jeff Jordan demonstrates the awkward moves of Pee Wee Drummond and veteran St. Louis performer Ben Nordstrom has a fine time as a trolley conductor and also as the Christmas Ball band singer who warbles Under the Anheuser Bush.

Meet Me in St. Louis scores high on the schmaltz meter, but it\u2019s performed handsomely enough under Dodge\u2019s skillful guidance and it does feature the songs of Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane and much of the original book by Hugh Wheeler. Hats off to The Muny as well for the spectacular finale to this show and to the season.

Musical: Meet Me in St. Louis

Company: The Muny

Venue: The Muny in Forest Park

Dates: Through August 12

Tickets: Free to $100; contact 314-534-1111 or metrotix.com

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Phillip Hamer and Eric Woolsey

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\"mural_big.JPG\"
mural_big.JPG

In such divisive times, few endeavors, artistically, can rival the unifying power of a mural, and COCA \u2013 known only to sticklers as the Center of Creative Arts \u2013 is even now hosting such an exercise in unification.

\u201cLet Me Help You Make a Mural,\u201d which opened June 9 in that University City Loop facility, is curated by Yvonne Osei, transmedial artist and COCA\u2019s inaugural curator in residence, with Israeli-born, St. Louis-based artist Edo Rosenblith.

Osei, it bears noting, has lately been one busy lady, having won the Saint Louis Visionary Awards\u2019 2018 Visionary Award for Emerging Artist in April and also having recently jetted back to the metro area from Paris, as well as preparing a solo exhibition titled \u201cWho Discovers the Discoverer?\u201d at Clayton\u2019s Bruno David Gallery starting Aug. 31.

In discussing the expansive mural, Osei first addresses what inspired it. \u201cAs a curator, my interest is to engage COCA\u2019s audience in fresh and unconventional ways, while finding opportunities for the visual arts to influence and be influenced by various aspects of the organization,\u201d she says.

\u201cMy aim for the exhibition is to nurture a visual experience that promotes \u2018active\u2019 engagement of the audience we serve. The inspiration was to create a hands-on experience for viewers and to hopefully encourage a deeper understanding and appreciation for the process of art making as they engage the artist.

\u201cThis community-collaborative exhibition was conceived to blur the boundaries of art making and art engagement.\u201d

Osei also explains the endeavor\u2019s title \u2013 specifically, whether she and COCA intend it to be interpreted as the artist extending an offer to the public or vice versa.

\u201c\u2018Let Me Help You Make a Mural\u2019 itself suggests a willingness to collaborate,\u201d she says. \u201cThe title purposely embraces ambiguity, as the exhibition develops through various visual interactions between the artist and the audience.

\u201cOne can think of the entire exhibition \u2013 the creation of the mural \u2013 as a process to be engaged in and not just a product to be viewed. Both Rosenblith and COCA\u2019s audience are constantly shifting and changing the visual narrative of the mural with the white marks they leave behind on the black Millstone Gallery walls.\u201d

\"mural07.JPG\"
mural07.JPG

She also explains the factors that led to choosing Rosenblith as the \u201cguide\u201d for this work, as well as his duties as guide.

\u201cI approached Edo Rosenblith for the solo exhibition in February,\u201d Osei relates. \u201cI had been familiar with Rosenblith\u2019s work from Washington University, where we both pursued our MFA degrees.\u201d She commends him for his \u201cability to address various subject matters\u201d across all ages and his willingness to tackle what Osei cites as Rosenblith\u2019s first community-collaborative creation.

Few strictures govern visitors\u2019 contributions to the endeavor, which covers a number of planar surfaces throughout the gallery, Osei adds. \u201cUpon walking into the gallery space, Rosenblith has handwritten guidelines on the gallery wall that have three simple options for gallery visitors participating in making the mural,\u201d she says. Otherwise, within reasonable societal constraints, COCA welcomes all forms of content to \u201cLet Me Help You Make a Mural.\u201d

Since its opening, moreover, the collective creation has enjoyed a good deal of attention, Osei remarks, coinciding, as it has, with the opening of certain physical renovations at COCA and its hugely popular summer arts camp. \u201cAll of this has provided high visibility for the exhibition,\u201d she says.

Osei also sketches how the mural has developed thus far. \u201cThe idea was to engage a wide range of individuals of various ages, levels and forms of creativity, as well as from diverse academic, social and cultural backgrounds,\u201d she says.

Various recent events, Osei continues, \u201cbrought in a lot of individuals ranging from board members, to staff members, to ballet dancers, to theater trainees, to summer camp children of all ages and so on, all who have participated in developing the mural in one way or another.

\u201cSome of our summer campers are using the evolving mural as a form of sketchpad or journal. Other visitors have even approached the mural as a large coloring book, coloring away pockets of outlined drawings made by the artist. In many cases, Rosenblith reinforces, expands and blends in their ideas with permanent markers, making them a comprehensive part of the piece.\u201d

\"mural_cover.JPG\"
mural_cover.JPG

Also scheduled as part of \u201cLet Me Help You Make a Mural\u201d were two \u201cdrawing marathons\u201d \u2013 the second set for Saturday, Aug. 4 \u2013 allowing visitors to draw alongside Rosenblith. \u201cThe events have been intentionally designed to foster meaningful collaboration between the artist and the community,\u201d Osei says. \u201cAnd certainly, in the absence of the artist, gallery visitors can still contribute to the development of the mural during the open hours of the gallery until Aug. 26, when the exhibition closes.\u201d

After that date, Osei states that \u201cthe work will not exist physically but only through documentation. It was conceived as a temporary site-specific mural that develops from June 9 to Aug. 26, 2018.

\u201cWe invite the community to attend the Aug. 25 closing reception, which will show the culmination of visual expressions from both Edo Rosenblith and all community collaborators over the span of close to three months.\u201d

Finally \u2013 happily enough \u2013 Osei reassures art devotees about the robust memorialization of \u201cLet Me Help You Make a Mural\u201d: \u201cWe have professional photographers documenting the process of the mural periodically.\u201d

COCA, 524 Trinity Ave., University City, 314-725-6555, cocastl.org

"}, {"id":"ed8c7e44-0403-5a9e-a824-5db648e614ca","type":"article","starttime":"1533229200","starttime_iso8601":"2018-08-02T12:00:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1533230045","priority":40,"sections":[{"columns":"arts-and-culture/columns"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Art & Soul: Mark Witzling","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/columns/article_ed8c7e44-0403-5a9e-a824-5db648e614ca.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/columns/art-soul-mark-witzling/article_ed8c7e44-0403-5a9e-a824-5db648e614ca.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/columns/art-soul-mark-witzling/article_ed8c7e44-0403-5a9e-a824-5db648e614ca.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Bryan A. Hollerbach","prologue":"Maryland Heights artist Mark Witzling\u2019s\u00a0Intellectual Rigor\u00a0immediately strikes the eye with its chromatic juxtaposition.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["art & soul","mark witzling"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"132657f1-5646-5b85-baed-f2787a62a535","description":"","byline":"Image courtesy of Mark Witzling","hireswidth":1436,"hiresheight":1443,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/32/132657f1-5646-5b85-baed-f2787a62a535/5b608d28cf158.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1410","height":"929","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/32/132657f1-5646-5b85-baed-f2787a62a535/5b608d28cdfd1.image.jpg?crop=1410%2C929%2C10%2C141&resize=1410%2C929&order=crop%2Cresize"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"66","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/32/132657f1-5646-5b85-baed-f2787a62a535/5b608d28cdfd1.image.jpg?crop=1410%2C929%2C10%2C141&resize=100%2C66&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"198","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/32/132657f1-5646-5b85-baed-f2787a62a535/5b608d28cdfd1.image.jpg?crop=1410%2C929%2C10%2C141&resize=300%2C198&order=crop%2Cresize"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"675","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/32/132657f1-5646-5b85-baed-f2787a62a535/5b608d28cdfd1.image.jpg?crop=1410%2C929%2C10%2C141&resize=1024%2C675&order=crop%2Cresize"}}}],"revision":6,"commentID":"ed8c7e44-0403-5a9e-a824-5db648e614ca","body":"
\"080318-art-Art
080318-art-Art and Soul image

Maryland Heights artist Mark Witzling\u2019s Intellectual Rigor immediately strikes the eye with its chromatic juxtaposition.

Created last year, that 4-foot-square painting \u2013 in oils and mixed media on a wooden panel \u2013 balances largely ashen vertical swathes on its left three quarters or so with a scorching column of reds and oranges down its right side.

With its grays recalling clay-heavy loam and the remainder of the painting almost ablaze, Intellectual Rigor suggests a clash of elemental proportions, earth versus fire. Coincidentally, the painting\u2019s creation did involve a dualistic afflatus, Witzling relates, albeit not one involving classical Greece.

\u201cIntellectual Rigor is part of a recent series of abstract oil paintings inspired by my interpretation of the loss of truth in public discussion,\u201d he says. \u201cWhen both sides of an issue neglect the truth, truth becomes obfuscated. The painting reflects the way truth becomes buried beneath layers of obfuscation. I use oils, cold wax medium and graphite to build up multiple layers, and then excavate back into those layers to reveal portions of the truth beneath.\u201d

In his artistic m\u00e9tier, it bears noting, Witzling mentions the inclusion of certain of his works in \u201cthe first book about this medium\u201d: Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts & Conversations, a recent, award-winning Squeegee Press trade paperback by Rebecca Crowell and Jerry McLaughlin.

On any given work, Witzling continues, after layering, he \u201cuse[s] a variety of tools and processes to move and remove portions \u2026 This process repeats many times until there\u2019s a deep sense of depth in the final painting. I rarely use brushes in my process, instead using a variety of palette knives, pastry scrapers, rollers and even old credit cards to achieve the desired results.\u201d

Witzling \u2013 who holds a bachelor\u2019s degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and, of all things, a Master of Business Administration degree from Boston University \u2013 says that his \u201cart has been placed in spaces from California to New York, Florida, and as far away as Berlin and Mumbai.\u201d

He also admits to enjoying a busy 2018. In March, for instance, one of his works won the second-place Award of Mastery in two-dimensional art at an area art fair. Shortly thereafter, in April, he traveled to the commune of Orquevaux in northeastern France, where, as part of a monthlong artist residency and grant, he \u201cpainted alongside selected artists from countries around the world.\u201d

\u201cI have five paintings in the \u2018Sky\u2019s the Limit\u2019 show opening Aug. 3 at OA Gallery in Kirkwood and running through the end of August,\u201d Witzling also notes, adding that he\u2019s not only taking part in the Art Fair at Queeny Park over the Labor Day weekend but also showing in the emerging artists booth at the Saint Louis Art Fair in Clayton from Sept. 7 to 9.

Oh \u2013 one other minor detail about Witzling\u2019s busy 2018. In April, before his jaunt to France, the Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design introduced him as its new executive director.

To learn more about our featured artist, visit markwitzlingart.com.

St. Louis-area artists who wish to be considered for future installments of this monthly department of Ladue News should email inquiries to bhollerbach@laduenews.com with “Art and Soul” in the subject line.

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\"VistaHiRes-01.jpg\"
VistaHiRes-01.jpg

After more than two years of serving ramen and more on Cherokee Street in St. Louis\u2019 Benton Park West neighborhood, the popular restaurant Vista Ramen recently dropped the \u201cRamen\u201d from its name. That change involved others: Vista served its last bowl of ramen in July and retooled its menu to showcase diner-inspired new American fare.

\u201cWe wanted to be able to reach a wider audience with the type of food we were doing and have more of a neighborhood feel,\u201d chef-owner Chris Bork says. \u201cWe just want to provide an atmosphere for anyone to come. Someone can come in and get a burger or have multiple courses for that whole dining experience.\u201d

To coincide with the changes, co-owners Jeremy and Casey Miller instituted minor physical renovations; the noodle bar was removed and cut into tables, for instance. The space now seats 30 guests, with four more seats at the bar.

From the former menu, guests still can order a few old favorites, including Korean fried chicken on a Hawaiian roll with fish-sauce pickles; pork ribs with crab caramel and peanuts; and a cheeseburger with fish-sauce pickles, shredded iceberg lettuce, Kewpie mayo and American cheese.

Another recent Vista Ramen special also made it into the fold: hush puppies with mole and cotija, topped with sweet corn from Bohlen Family Farms in Perryville, Missouri. Bork also incorporated into his new menu the veggie burger from Mothership (inside nearby Earthbound Beer) with the addition of Thousand Island dressing and Muenster cheese.

Highlights from the brand-new set of offerings include a roasted sweet potato appetizer topped with balsamic vinegar, mint and duqqa \u2013 an Egyptian condiment made of a roasted mix of sunflower seeds, pistachios, almonds, coconut, cumin and coriander. New entr\u00e9es include a smoked brisket Bolognese with tagliolini, Parmesan, toasted cornbread crumbs and basil.

\u201cWe\u2019re kind of completely changing the menu,\u201d Bork says. \u201cIn a sense, we wanted to come up with something that was approachable and comfortable and slowly gain people\u2019s trust back. So hopefully in two months, we\u2019ll be totally immersed into doing the food we want to do.\u201d

General manager Aaron Stovall says guests can still choose from an ever-evolving curated selection of local canned beers, wine and food-forward cocktails. New cocktail options include batched concoctions such as Grandma\u2019s Garden Party, a refreshing beverage made of fresh-pressed watermelon juice, Leopold\u2019s Summer Gin, elderflower liqueur and citrus, topped with soda. So regardless of whether you want to revisit an oldie-but-goodie or something new from Vista, make sure to do so before catching The Realistic Joneses from Rebel and Misfits Productions.\u00a0

Vista, 2609 Cherokee St., St. Louis, 314-797-8250, vistastl.com

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Story: Jerusalem is under siege as Nabucco, king of Babylon, and his army move in for the kill in their war with the Israelites, circa 575 B.C. Zaccaria, high priest of Jerusalem, has an ace in the hole, though: He is holding Nabucco\u2019s daughter Fenena hostage.

Unfortunately, Zaccaria entrusts Fenena to Ismaele, nephew of the king of Jerusalem, who also happens to be in love with the hostage, as is she with him. Fenena\u2019s half-sister Abigaille loves Ismaele as well, and is angered when he rejects her overtures, leaving her to vow revenge by having Fenena accused of betraying her nation.

When Nabucco enters the Israeli temple in search of his imprisoned daughter, Ismaele saves her from Zaccaria and hands her over to the Babylonian, an action considered treasonous by the Israelites. Nabucco then establishes Fenena as ruler of Babylon, unaware that Abigaille has found a document which states that Abigaille was born to slaves. She ultimately destroys that document and demands that Fenena relinquish her title.

Before any of that can occur, Nabucco decides to take back the crown and declare himself \u2018God,\u2019 a blasphemy which results in his being struck down by the Lord, rendering him insane. Meanwhile, Zaccaria has convinced the Israelites that Ismaele has converted Fenena and that she has their interests at heart. Abigaille then seizes the throne and condemns Fenena to death.

As Nabucco sees Fenena and the Israelites being led to execution, he regains his senses and makes peace with the Lord, begging for forgiveness. He retakes the Babylonian throne, rescues Fenena and orders that the Babylonian idol, the statue of Baal, be destroyed. Abigaille dies from poison after confessing her crimes, while Nabucco informs the Israelites they are free to rebuild their temple.

Highlights: Union Avenue Opera features a cadre of superb singers in its production of this convoluted but musically sound opera, Giuseppe Verdi\u2019s first \u2018hit\u2019 in his career when it premiered in Milan in 1841.

Other Info: UAO founding artistic director Scott Schoonover says in the company\u2019s news release that \u201cUAO hasn\u2019t produced a Verdi opera in the past few seasons, and I can\u2019t wait to get this one in front of audiences.\u201d To further that goal, he enlisted the aid of frequent performer Mark Frieman, who makes a fine directorial debut in guiding the show\u2019s large ensemble through many memorable Verdi moments.

The music\u2019s what counts here, too, folks, \u2018cuz the story by librettist Temistocle Solera can be confusing if not downright head-scratching. Suffice to say that any headaches are quickly alleviated by the superior singing of Melody Wilson in the role of Fenena, a part generally sung by a mezzo-soprano. Wilson\u2019s clear, emotive voice shapes the part with clarity in this presentation.

Marsha Thompson\u2019s dazzling soprano fills the role of Abigaille with power and persuasion, getting across the woman\u2019s unsteady psyche in several scenes. There\u2019s fine work as well by baritone Robert Garner, a regular on the Metropolitan Opera stage, who deftly handles the role of the pompous and subsequently penitential title character.

Chicago Lyric Opera tenor Jesse Donner makes an impressive UAO debut as the conflicted Ismaele, while Zachary James puts his brooding bass to good use as high priest Zaccaria. Karen Kanakis does well as Zaccaria\u2019s sister Anna and UAO veteran tenor Clark Sturdevant delivers as the Babylonian soldier Abdallo.

A total of 26 singers fill the UAO stage, which Freiman makes palatable enough by positioning many of them in clusters across Patrick Huber\u2019s ancient-looking set design. Teresa Doggett dresses them in appropriate biblical attire and Huber provides lighting as well.

Conductor Stephen Hargreaves does a sensational job culling an excellent reading of Verdi\u2019s lush score by members of the Union Avenue Opera orchestra, making it easy to understand why this work propelled Verdi to fame in the first place.

Sit back, enjoy the music and try not to worry about who\u2019s doing what to whom and why. Nabucco can be much better experienced that way.

Opera: Nabucco

Company: Union Avenue Opera

Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union Blvd.

Dates: August 3, 4

Tickets: $30 to $55; contact 361-2881 or unionavenueopera.org

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of John Lamb

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Story: Following the invasion of Iraq by American forces in 2003, a pair of soldiers guards the Baghdad zoo, wary of enemy attack. A number of the animals at the zoo have escaped due to battles nearby, including several lions. A Bengal tiger ruefully observes the stupidity of the \"king of the beasts,\" who were receiving three meals a day but now are on the prowl for food and likely to be killed on the streets.

When one of the American soldiers on guard offers some food to the caged tiger through the bars imprisoning it, the big cat reacts swiftly, violently and naturally, biting off the man\u2019s hand in the blink of an eye. The other soldier immediately shoots and kills the animal. The tiger\u2019s spirit, though, lives on, observing that the afterlife poses as many questions as life itself.

The tiger observes how the war affects humans as well. Tom, whose right hand is amputated because of the tiger attack, returns later to Iraq after his convalescence to confront Kev, his fellow soldier who had saved him from death. He wants the golden gun he had confiscated from the palace of Uday Hussein, the ruthless Iraqi leader who was killed along with his Hussein\u2019s brother by American forces.

Tom demands the golden gun be returned to him, saying it\u2019s his property as a spoil of war and he wants to sell it for money to help finance a fresh start in life for himself. There\u2019s also a golden toilet seat he wants, too, but Kev doesn\u2019t have either, not since he had been ambushed in a raid on an Iraqi home. Kev is also fighting serious depression and is under suicide watch at a military hospital, where he is haunted by the tiger\u2019s ghost, unable to convince anyone else of its presence.

An Iraqi translator named Musa, who formerly was a gardener on the Hussein estate, may now be in possession of the golden gun. Is he willing to hand it over to the Americans? Or could he use it in revenge against Hussein, who had raped Musa\u2019s beloved sister before he was killed by American forces?

How could that be, though? Hussein is dead, correct? What harm could he possibly do to Musa now? As the meandering tiger observes, however, there\u2019s more to the afterlife than living creatures on Earth had thought possible, and it may not all be good.

Highlights: Rajiv Joseph was a finalist in 2010 for a Pulitzer Prize in drama for this searing, gripping and provocative story which is given a first-rate rendering by Black Mirror Theatre in its local debut production.

Other Info: Harrowing and heart-breaking, Joseph\u2019s taut tale delivers a wallop under the sage direction of Catherine Hopkins, whose cast immerses an audience thoroughly in this grim and cautionary look at the ravages of war.

Joseph interestingly sets his tale against the background of a dismantled zoo, where \u2018survival of the fittest\u2019 applies not just to the animals but to the mercurial humans who attack each other with devastating results.

There are no \u2018winners\u2019 in Joseph\u2019s sobering, sorrowful story, but there is an abundance of victims whose frailties and follies are accentuated under inhuman conditions. The two American soldiers are simple, directionless youths who assume terrifying control and authority behind their weapons. Kev in particular is seriously psychopathic, but his mental instability is unchecked during untold skirmishes on foreign soil.

Hopkins carefully walks her players through Joseph\u2019s ferocious minefield of observations, abetted by Gwen Wolfson\u2019s arresting scenic design dominated by a series of background sheets adorned with Arabic writing, juxtaposed opposite a column with posters at stage left.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is credited with intriguing costumes and macabre props used in the two-act drama, including a bloody head of his brother carried around by the malicious Uday Hussein, son of deposed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. Michelle Zielinski adds an evocative lighting design and Hopkins contributes the sound design\u2019s exotic flavor.

Don McLendon strikes just the right chord as the caustic but questioning title character, capturing the animal's basic instincts as well as its amusing commentary on life and the hereafter, where the tiger chomps on some raw meat after trying vegetarianism for \u201cthree hours.\u201d McLendon\u2019s glare and imperious tone wisely sum up the Bengal tiger\u2019s weariness about life, God and the relative meaning of it all.

Charles Winning delivers his best performance to date as the venal Hussein, icily describing in measured tones the awful pain which he inflicts on his victims with nary a moment of remorse. Dressed in a dapper, tiger-colored suit, Winning\u2019s Hussein revels in mocking the weaknesses or even compassion he finds in others, carrying his terrifying demeanor with him beyond death.

As Musa, Brian Rolf achingly anchors the production as its moral protagonist, ironically an artist who specializes in \u201ctopiary\u201d creations which bring warmth and festivity to Hussein\u2019s gardens, but also an escape for the translator not only from war but from the horrors of the Hussein regime.

Erik Kuhn delivers a strong performance as the misguided Tom, a man-child who thinks that money can solve his long-lasting problems. Kalen Riley is highly effective in making Kev a scary, volatile train wreck of a soldier who rages at everything and understands nothing, leaving emotional scars and physical ruin in his wake.

There also are poignant performances by Hailey Medrano as Musa\u2019s aggrieved sister Hadia as well as a compassionate Iraqi leper, and Laura Kyro as an Iraqi woman terrorized by the unhinged Kev invading her home.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo takes the never-ending topic of war and views it through a fascinating albeit troubling prism. Bravo to Black Mirror for bringing such a scarring interpretation to local audiences.

Play: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Company: Black Mirror Theatre

Venue: Kranzberg Black Box Theatre, Grand at Olive

Dates: August 2, 3, 4

Tickets: $15-$20; contact metrotix.com or 534-1111

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Black Mirror Theatre

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Story: Bob and Jennifer Jones have new neighbors on their quiet little street. When John and Pony, also named Jones, stop by to introduce themselves, Jennifer is kind of happy to see the new owners of the house across from theirs. \u201cI liked when it was empty,\u201d says Bob in contrast.

Bob\u2019s having some medical difficulties which have prevented him from returning to his local government job. He relies on Jennifer to see that he takes his proper medication, although he has an odd way of showing gratitude. Actually, Bob\u2019s a rather quirky fellow in many respects.

He doesn\u2019t have anything on John, though, who seems to have invented bizarre behavior with his own lengthy list of peculiarities. He works in heating and air conditioning when he\u2019s of a mind and if he doesn\u2019t forget about an appointment. What he really likes, though, is debating the purpose of life or insisting that Bob not look at \u201chis\u201d part of the sky. A bit territorial is John.

Pony tries to make a few pennies here and there with her greeting card business, although she laments to Bob and Jennifer that people don\u2019t really send cards anymore. For her part, Jennifer is gradually being worn down by Bob\u2019s relentless pessimism as well as his most unusual medical affliction, which zaps him of all energy.

John finds Jennifer rather attractive, as does Bob with Pony. It isn\u2019t love, mind you, it\u2019s just physical attraction and the thrill of something new for neighbors each named Jones. They\u2019re trying to be realistic about everything, but they each have secrets which must be maintained lest the cat get out of the bag. That would be unfortunate.

Highlights: Rebel and Misfits Productions, which specializes in the offbeat and the challenging, is in fine form with a fitfully funny yet increasingly serious presentation about the lives we live for ourselves and for others. Edward Coffield directs this lively interpretation of Will Eno\u2019s funky story in studied, controlled fashion, eliciting marvelous performances from his quartet of accomplished players.

Other Info: Playwright Eno says that he penned The Realistic Joneses because he \u201cwanted to really just write a naturalistic and realistic play,\u201d according to Wikipedia. His dialogue does have a naturalistic flow in that one can\u2019t really predict what each character will say next, especially the two men.

And yet, scenic designers Peter and Margery Spack have assembled a bizarre and brilliant set design which features two miniature houses outside the back screen doors of each of the homes of the two sets of Joneses.

How odd, indeed, given that everything else conforms to regular size, such as the tall ladder leaning against one house, or some coolers on a patio, or tables and chairs, all of which sit beneath a string of outdoor lights and several festively colored balls. Very strange but enticing and intoxicating, too. Meg Brinkley adds some clever props as well.

There\u2019s also the ingenious sound design assembled by Ellie Schwetye, which reflects the stark progression of Eno\u2019s words from hilarious to poignant to an unsettling existential conclusion. Going from Peter, Paul & Mary and The Carpenters to more introspective, downbeat tunes can accomplish that.

Add Jon Ontiveros\u2019 intriguing lighting design and you have a technical team who accentuate Eno\u2019s wit and dazzling way with situations which can keep an audience off- kilter throughout.

Coffield\u2019s savvy cast finds the dark humor as well as the sadness in Eno\u2019s beguiling script, not only delivering some ridiculous-sounding but effective dialogue but also pacing their responses in finely measured, metered rhythm which adds an extra layer of absurdity to these unorthodox conversations.

It\u2019s deliciously macabre, e.g., when after explaining Bob\u2019s very rare condition Jennifer looks at John and says, \u201cDo you have an hilarious punchline about that?\u201d Or when John suspects something going on between his wife and Bob and he pounces around a patio table like a predator going in for the kill.

Alan Knoll\u2019s calm, detached demeanor as Bob underscores torrents of uncertainty in the character\u2019s psyche which Knoll shapes exceedingly well. As Jennifer, his real-life wife Laurie McConnell accomplishes as much with a glance or a glare as with her dialogue, evaluating sundry situations as the most practical and \u2018normal\u2019 one of the quartet.

Artistic director Kelly Hummert amusingly portrays Pony as a bit of a flower child and a wide-eyed wonder who just basically schlepps through life in tandem with her peculiar and unsettling husband John. Certainly, Isaiah Di Lorenzo displays an unnerving menace in John\u2019s unconventional approach to most everything, especially throwing off otherwise normal conversations and topics with his skewed outlook.

All members of the quartet take turns commanding the stage with brittle and brave renderings of four lost souls careening through space under the canopy of the starry sky above their abodes. You\u2019ll likely be thinking about The Realistic Joneses long after you leave them to their dubious devices.

Play: The Realistic Joneses

Company: Rebel and Misfits Productions

Venue: Wool Theatre, Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive

Dates: July 28, 29, August 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Tickets: $40-$45; contact www.metrotix.com or 534-1111

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Eric Woolsey

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