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St. Louis by Richard Green

Snapshots
St. Louis Actors' Studio

Also see Bob's review of Thoroughly Modern Millie

Snapshots
I have to confess it to somebody, so here goes: I bought a very large bag of M&M'S last week, and gobbled them up by the handful. It left me feeling giddy and a little bit guilty. But, as it turned out, it was awfully good preparation for the brand new play at the Gaslight Theater.

Snapshots starts out with an excellent cast of five performers spilling a mountain of colorful childhood memories like candy-coated chocolates, leading us into more and more sweet (and semi-sweet) moments through the show's 55 minutes. There are even a few truffles thrown in for good measure, in scenes ranging from bad dates to bad marriages and on to the "golden years." But somewhere in the first twenty minutes (possibly as soon as a father passes over his own daughter in a hula-hoop contest he's judging), the cast gently strikes out beyond Nichols and May territory and into the courtroom of Brown & Crouppen: forcing us to question our own imperfections, and those of our families as well. (And that's where the guilty after-taste comes in.)

But not to worry. That sense of conviction is not overwhelming, nor even dominant. It's probably just an inevitable by-product of the show's famously enigmatic director, Milt Zoth, silently forcing his actors to reach deeper and deeper for a true performance. Judging from a random sampling of his recent shows, even the silliest sketches will eventually ring out with some degree of authenticity under his Sphinx-like gaze. And it doesn't hurt when you have talents like Cindy Duggan, Anna Blair and Tyler Vickers to work with, either. Younger actors Roger Erb and Syd Andrews are also lots of fun, comical in self-absorbed adolescence or faced with the prospect of teenaged marriage.

The show is wonderfully brisk, and favorite scenes include a pair of newlyweds (Ms. Andrews and Mr. Erb) fighting over a crockpot in one scene, and then replaying the situation again, with the young husband saying all the right things when he miraculously gets a second chance. Mr. Vickers and Ms. Duggan are ex-spouses who play their son (Mr. Erb) like a badminton birdie between them; and Ms. Blair is touching as she comforts Ms. Duggan, who's been dumped in an old folks home.

Of course, it's a bit nervy (by local standards) to ask $15-$20 a ticket for a show that goes to bed before the summer sun has quite gone down, but you don't get actors (or directors), or a massive group-writing process like this one for loose change (there are 45 people listed in the program as assistants in the play's development). And, if Snapshots forces you (or your date) to pick up the phone and call your mom or dad or brother or sister at long last, well, maybe it's a bargain after all.

Through June 22, 2008 at the Gaslight Theater, 360 North Boyle, north of Lindell Blvd. and just east of the New Cathedral. Valet parking is available. For ticket information call (314) 458-2978 or visit them on-line at www.stlas.org.

Cast
Syd Andrews
Anna Blair*
Cindy Duggan
Roger Erb
Tyler Vickers

*Appears with permission of Actors' Equity Association

Crew
Director: Milt Zoth
Stage Manager: Sara Renschen
Assistant Stage Manager: Maria Straub
Dramaturgs: Gerry Mandel, Sara Renschen, David Wassilak
Set and Light Designer: Patrick Huber
Sound Design: Milt Zoth
Properties Manager: Jim Stewart
Master Electrician: Nick Moramarco
Set Construction: Margaret Engel
Light Board Operator: Mark Hardy
Sound Board Operator: Maria Straub
Production Manager: David Wassilak
House Manager: Kimberly Sansone


Photo: John Lamb


-- Richard T. Green

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