Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

A Man of No Importance
R-S Theatrics
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's recent review of Guys and Dolls

Lindy Elliot, Kent Coffel, Marshall Jennings, Stephanie
Merritt, Jodi Stockton (obscured), Mark Kelley (seated), Michael B. Perkins, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Kay Love,
Kellen Green, Dustin Allison

Photo by Michael Young
A lot of amazing things can happen, all at once, in the last week of rehearsal. And one of the most exciting things, along with costumes and make-up and lights and sound, can be the addition of a band—in this case an excellent seven-piece ensemble, playing literally alongside the action in this local premiere of A Man of No Importance at the Marcelle Theatre in St. Louis. But most of the actors still hadn't boosted their own speaking or singing volume by opening night, to compensate for the newly installed orchestra (and nary a headset mic in sight). Nor had the instrumentalists managed to tone it down. So most of the lyrics, and even some of the dialog, were lost to the audience.

Otherwise, director and Artistic Director Christina Rios has gathered together an outstanding cast (and a terrific band), for the R-S Theatrics production of the 2002 musical (based on a 1994 film), and the worst of the audio imbalance will probably be short-lived. Terrence McNally wrote the libretto, with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, about a stage-struck young man in Dublin, thrown into crises over a production of Oscar Wilde's Salome, and his own simultaneous coming-out experience.

It's 1964 and Alfie (Mark Kelley) is a young closeted gay director who also has a secret love for a co-worker at his regular job. Alfie, by day, is the conductor on a bus, and Robbie (Kellen Green) is his bus driver. We lose about 80% of Mr. Kelley's singing in the lush music, while Mr. Green (who has apparently recognized the sound problem on his own) seems to hurl his lyrics back at the musicians like an Irish taunt—as if the band occupying stage-right were a newly arrived phalanx of British soldiers, waiting to bash his skull.

On top of that, I get impatient watching "coming out" stories. I feel embarrassed that we're wasting time, as the average heterosexual theatergoer doesn't need to be preached at, and most of these type of stories are broadly the same: gay boy meets self; gay boy loses self; gay boy finds self. And, for better or worse, we have a lot of newer issues to deal with now in the twenty-first century. But A Man of No Importance becomes important, if only because of the accretion of all the highly talented performers on stage.

In A Man of No Importance we also get a very subtle, laudable examination of the evolution of parochial thinking and sacrifice, and ultimately a soft-hearted reconciliation that proves the value of this Catholic community's backwater spiritual life after all. It's a finely crafted meta-story, the psychological adjustment of all the people around Alfie, that develops in an almost entirely unspoken, or unsung, manner, thanks to director Rios.

Well, I assume it's all done unspoken, this broadening psychological evolution of the neighborhood. When you can't hear the words, it's hard to tell. It's like watching a foreign film—you have to go by what you're seeing, even more than when you can understand the language (I was frantically trying to read lips this night). Thank goodness all the subtext is visible and physically modulated by these performers. And by the time you read this, the audio problem will likely be modulated as well. But these were the facts of opening night.

There are probably at least three centuries of combined experience on stage, not counting the band. Kent Coffel is great singing of his late wife in "The Cuddles Mary Gave," and Stephanie Merritt is outstanding as Alfie's put-upon unmarried sister. Nancy Nigh, another very strong actress, gets one of the show's genuine big laughs, as she converts Salome's "dance of the seven veils" into a tap number.

In terms of overall design, the presentation also could be a little more visually relevant, at least for Alfie in his dilemma. He could be visually trapped in tight little frames of light, till the final broad-minded scenes at the end. The staging is now wide open, set against a backdrop of costume racks filled with bright clothing and a wall of floppy hats. But the songs are often unimaginative or obvious (what we can hear of them), and I doubt symbolic lighting or a volume adjustment would help that much.

Beyond the lovely, symbolic consciousness raising that delicately unfolds on stage, there is a another kind of social justice that's also fulfilled, simply by bringing in shows we've never seen in town before. And usually it works great, as the business model of this fine company. R-S Theatrics begins its 11th season in December, with Daphne's Dive.

A Man of No Importance, through August 25, 2019 at the Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive (just east of Circus Flora, and Powell Symphony Hall), St. Louis MO. There is a guarded, fenced parking lot. For more information visit

Father Kenny/Ernie Lally: Dustin Allison
Baldy/Mate/Policeman: Kent Coffel
Adele: Lindy Elliot
Robbie Kellen Green
Rasher Flynn: Breton Beret: Marshall Jennings
Alfie: Mark Kelley
Miss Crowe/Customer: Kay Love
Lily: Stephanie Merritt
Carson: Curtis Moeller
Mrs. Curtin/Kitty: Nancy Nigh
Carney/Oscar Wilde: Michael B. Perkins
Mrs. Grace: Jodi Stockton
Mrs. Patrick: Jennifer Theby-Quinn

Conductor/Keyboard/Percussion: Curtis Moeller
Bass: Benjamin Ash
Violin: Twinda Murry
Violin: Hanna Kroeger
Cello: Emily T. Lane
Guitars: Adam Rugo
Flutes: Marc Strathman

Production Staff:
Director: Christina Rios
Music Director: Curtis Moeller
Stage Manager: Brittanie Gunn
Assistant Stage Manager: Amy Riddle
Production Intern: Brittney Roberson
Lighting Design: Nathan Schroeder
Costume Design: Amanda Brasher
Sound Design: Mark Kelly
Properties: Heather Tucker
Tap Choreography: Naomi Walsby
Fight Choreography: Mark Kelley
Assistant Fight Choreographer: Rhiannon Skye Creighton
Fight Captain: Michael B. Perkins
Dialect Coach: Mark Kelley
Box Office Manager: Andy Zaruba
Graphic Designer: Michael Young
Artistic Director: Christina Rios
Associate Managing Director: Carmen Garcia
Associate Managing Director: Heather Tucker