Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

In Bloom
The Tesseract Theatre Company

Review by Richard T. Green

Vaida Gruenloh, Catherine Analla, Rhiannon Creighton, Rosario Rios-Kelly, and
(standing) Christina Rios

Photo by Taylor Gruenloh
"What is it about girls?" I once asked a co-worker, who had raised five girls (and two boys) of her own. I'd just come back from spending a week out of town, babysitting three of my elementary school-aged nieces. And the first night back home, I'd suffered my first migraine headache in over twenty years. Days later, my work friend nodded and sighed: "They always have to have the last word."

But in Gwyneth Strope's great new comedy In Bloom, nobody gets the last word, because four of these funny teenage girls are all vying for the spotlight at the same time, on stage for Tesseract Theatre Company at the Marcelle Theatre in St. Louis. The girls, age 11 to 18, are being raised by a single mother played by the excellent Christina Rios, under the nuanced direction of Tesseract Theatre co-founder Brittanie Gunn. The show runs through July 23, 2023, as a world premiere and part of the group's Summer New Theatre Festival. It's magic, insanity, and unbreakable love. And, somehow, I feel like this play should have existed all my life.

But that's not entirely true, about the four girls always competing to have the "last word." There are plenty of moments of stunned silence during this 90-minute riot, when each girl stops to stare into the abyss of impending adulthood. In my head it just seems like they're always uproariously talking over one another: first as their mother (Dorothy) tries to get them all ready for their grandmother's second marriage; and then as the mother falls in love again and eventually plans her own return to the altar.

Maybe it's some magic formula at work. With girls, comedy may comes in fours. There are four sisters in Little Women and four sisters in Meet Me in St. Louis. Here, Rhiannon Creighton, who was so great in last summer's The Length of a Pop Song (by the same group), shows tremendous understanding of acting and theatre as the eldest daughter, Rosalind, who is crushed to learn she needs $10,000 to enroll in flight school.

Catherine Analla manages to add lots of decency and humanity to the most stylized character in the play, Lorelei, the antagonized goth-poet sister. And Vaida Gruenloh is touching as the third daughter, Camille, stricken with painful rheumatoid arthritis–but enduring, and striving to be normal, where the others seek flamboyance. A couple of the girls, forced into corners by circumstance, have speeches about making the conscious decision to grow in response to pain. And these quiet moments in the spotlight are unexpectedly inspiring.

Rosario Rios-Kelley is lots of fun as Eileen, the irrepressible scamp, who is twelve years old by the end of the play (and the real-life daughter of the actress playing her onstage mother here). She is virtually flawless on lines and delivery, and got the lion's share of all the well-earned laughs on opening night. Her impassioned little soliloquy about how marriage must always founder because of some woman in Vegas named Chelsea strikes all the right notes of drama, as well.

Early on, Eileen's older sisters all tease her about her love for gay athletes, as part of the chaotic explosion of laughter that rings throughout the play. Still, a fine safety-net of love and caring holds them all together, like their bedtime game at the end: making an impromptu shelter against the world.

In Bloom runs through July 23, 2023, at the Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Boulevard, St. Louis MO. For tickets and information please visit

Dorothy: Christina Rios
Rosalind: Rhiannon Creighton
Lorelei: Catherine Analla
Camille: Vaida Gruenloh
Eileen: Rosario Rios-Kelly

Production Staff:
Director: Brittanie Gunn
Stage Manager: Amy Riddle
Lighting Designer: Erin Riley
Scenic Designers: Brittanie Gunn, Taylor Gruenloh
Fight Choreographer: Rhiannon Creighton
Production Assistant: Tina Edwards
Marketing: Kevin Corpuz