February 2025 will mark the beginning of St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s 17th season, themed “Something Old Something New.” The season includes productions of Eugene O’Neill’s masterwork “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” to be directed by renowned theater artist Austin Pendleton, and a new work by playwright Carter W. Lewis starring local legends Whit Reichert and Donna Weinsting.

“We are very excited about the offering for our 17th season, and to be working with Carter Lewis and Austin Pendleton again,” says William Roth, Founder and Artistic Director. “Carter’s plays have been featured in our LaBute Festival and Austin has come to STLAS to teach master classes.”

Austin Pendleton

Long Day’s Journey Into Night
By Eugene O’Neill
Directed by Austin Pendleton
February 7-23, 2025

O’Neill’s autobiographical masterwork, winner of the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is an unflinchingly honest portrayal of addiction in a dysfunctional Connecticut family, and will be directed by STLAS friend and Broadway actor/director Austin Pendleton.

“A magnificent and shattering play.” – New York Post
“O’Neill’s masterpiece… What never ceases to astonish is the dizzying emotional contradiction of O’Neill’s characters. Within a tight classical structure, they bounce around like pinballs between reality and illusion.” – The Guardian
“A stunning theatrical experience.” – New York Herald-Tribune
“O’Neill’s most beautiful play.” – New York Daily News 

Donna Weinsting

By Carter W. Lewis 
Directed by Assoc Artistic Director Annamaria Pileggi
April 4-20, 2025 
Whit Reichert* and Donna Weinsting*

Whit Reichert

Clifford and Minnie devolve into a world of humorous, but ultimately heartbreaking minutiae as they navigate a blizzard, a dead son, a rat in the kitchen and worse; in order to hold on to a bit of control over their personal end of life decisions.

The couple enlists their derelict son to obtain Death With Dignity drugs from the state of Oregon, but due to an accident on the highway, the plan goes hysterically and tragically array. As a result, Minnie and Clifford cling to daily tasks as they slowly get cut off from the world by a blizzard and disconnected utilities. Their enduring love fuels them through an obstacle course of each day’s events.

11th Annual LaBute New Theater Festival
July 11-27, 2025

Tony Nominated Playwright Neil LaBute returns to host his award winning One Act Festival.

*Member Actors’ Equity Association


St. Louis Actors’ Studio is one of the leading professional theatres in the St. Louis. area, producing a four-show season of plays at our 97-seat Gaslight Theatre. STLAS collaborates with renown director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute to produce the LaBute New Theater Festival each July in St. Louis and each January in New York City. The festival is a one-act play competition for emerging professionals and high-school writers. For more information and ticket sales, visit stlas.org.

Best Performance Awards to Honor Community Theatre, Youth Productions June 30

Local performer Donna Weinsting, who has been a popular figure on stage, in films and comedy clubs throughout St. Louis for 60 years, is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient from Arts For Life.

“I am beyond honored to receive this very special recognition, humbled and excited. I feel that this is a gift — to be acknowledged for something I have had a passion for nearly my entire life,” she said.

Donna Weinsting

Born Donna Collins, she grew up in St. Louis, and while her family moved several times, she landed in Oakville at age 13, and that is where she has lived ever since. She was first in a summer city park production of “Sleeping Beauty,” then a play in junior high.

“The die was cast and a 60-year career in acting and stand-up comedy was launched,” she said.

A graduate of Mehlville High School, she has never shied away from a challenge, playing leads as well as supporting and brief roles. She has performed in one-woman shows, played characters like Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jabba the Hutt in “Star Wars,” and various animals in WiseWrite plays written by 10-year-olds.

The community theater organizations she has worked with include Clayton Community Theatre, Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, and the no longer active Affton Players.

She has been on the stages of the regional professional companies The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Max and Louie Productions, New Jewish Theatre, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, Stray Dog Theatre, St. Louis Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, Upstream Theater, West End Players Guild, and the shuttered Orange Girls, Insight Theatre, OnSite, and others.

She has appeared at the Bluff City Theater in Hannibal, Mo., Ozark Actors’ Theatre in Rolla, Mo., Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock, Mo., Stages Houston and 59E59 Theatre Off-Broadway in New York as part of the LaBute New Theatre Festival.

Her honors include a Kevin Kline Award for Lead Actress, as Bessie in “From Door to Door” at New Jewish Theatre, St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Outstanding Actress as Iola in “Salt, Root and Roe” at Upstream Theater, and a St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Comedy Ensemble for “Jacob and Jack” at New Jewish Theatre, where she played both Ester and Hannah.

 She is proud of those honors but her most treasured things are her two children, five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and her 63-year marriage to her high school sweetheart, Mike.

Next up is a one-act play, “The Magic Tower,” which is part of the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis production of “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” this August.

She will be shooting a movie in Springfield this fall called “Big Mike’s Cabin,” and has appeared in “Ethan and Edna” and “Doubting Thomas.”

Zion Thomas emcee

Tickets Available for Awards Ceremony

Tickets are now available for the Arts For Life’s 24th Annual Best Performance Awards for community theater recognition on Sunday, June 30 at the Keating Performing Arts Center at Kirkwood High School, 801 W Essex Ave, Kirkwood, MO 63122

Zion Thomas will be the event’s master of ceremonies. A recent graduate of Case Western Reserve University, he is pursuing a career in film/TV.

Thomas served as the assistant director for GCPA’s “Ragtime,” and has performed the show twice — in the Union Avenue Opera production as part of the Harlem Ensemble last summer and was nominated for a St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Award for his performance as Coalhouse Walker Jr. at MICDS.

A GCPA alumnus, Thomas was BPA-nominated as Flick in “Violet” and played one of the adults in “Spring Awakening.”

Paul Pagano will serve as director. A native of St. Louis, he is the executive director and a co-founder of Gateway Center for the Performing Arts. He earned a bachelor’s degree in drama from Washington University and a master’s in theatre education from Fontbonne University.

A proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association since 2001, he has worked with The Muny, Stages St. Louis, HotCity Theatre, Guthrie Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival, and others. Besides teaching at GCPA, he has been an instructor at COCA, St. Louis University High School, and Stages Performing Arts Academy.

The ceremony will include performances from the top musicals nominated in the three Best Musical Production categories.

Paul Pagano will direct the awards ceremony

Act Two Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” and Monroe Actors Stage Company’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” lead all musical productions with 17 nominations apiece.

Gateway Center for the Performing Arts has the most nominations with 31- for “Bare: A Pop Opera” (7) and youth productions “9 to 5: The Musical” (14) and “School of Rock” (10).

Seating is reserved. Please let us know which theatre group or individual you would like to sit with in the “notes to seller” section at checkout.

BPA tickets are $30 and are available online with a service fee of $2 added: https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/.

Reservations can be arranged via the mail. Make check payable to ARTS FOR LIFE and mail to PO Box 16426, St. Louis, MO 63125.

All BPA ticket orders will be held at the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with the ticket order. If ordering for a group, please attach a list of individual names for box office pick-up.

Please contact us at afltrg@artsforlife.org if you have any special seating needs. Handicapped seating is available.

Award Nominations

Nominations are listed on the website, www.artsforlife.org.

“These events recognize the incredible talent we have in St. Louis community theater and honor the passion and dedication of those who build this amazing and unique theatrical community,” said Mary McCreight, AFL president.

Participating groups included Act Two Theatre, Alpha Players of Florissant, Christ Memorial Productions, Crusader Players, Curtain’s Up Theatre, Dayspring Arts and Education, Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, Goshen Theatre Project, Hawthorne Players, KTK Productions, Looking Glass Playhouse, Monroe Actors’ Stage Company, O’Fallon Theatre Works, Spotlight Productions and Take Two Productions.

Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”

AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it.

For advertising rates, BPA event sponsorship or more information, email afltrg@artsforlife.org or visit the website, www.artsforlife.org

With the climate crisis evincing ever more  concerns this summer, our Climate Change Theatre Action event on Saturday Oct 16 could not be more timely. 

Our free afternoon event will offer eight short internationally  commissioned plays in four art galleries, a theatrical adaptation of Greta Thuneberg’s address to the UN, a dance performance, outdoor resource tables by environmental organizations, voter registration, and more. 

That Uppity Theatre Company, Artistic director Joan Lipkin, in collaboration with Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA), a project of the Arctic Cycle will present a theatre and arts crawl on Saturday, Oct 16 from 1-4 pm at area art galleries in the Central West End.

The galleries include Duane Reed, Houska, Philip Slein, and Projects +, all located on McPherson Avenue in the historic CWE district.

“We are living in a time of increasing urgency to address critical climate change. It is no longer something that can be avoided or ignored. Regardless of our business, our occupations or personal situation, we are all in it together. Through our participation in the Climate Change Theatre Action, the gallery hopes to take part in a larger effort that is all about increasing our awareness of this crisis,” said Duane Reed, of the Duane Reed Gallery.

Viewers will be able to see a short play or two of under ten minutes before proceeding to the next gallery to see others. The event will feature 4-8 short pieces. Most performances will be repeated 6-8 times or approximately every twenty minutes, starting at 1 pm. Some work may also be performed outside.

Indoor performances will be limited to ten audience members at a time and masking will be required.

Many St Louis theatre artists are involved in presenting this project including Anna Blair, Donna Weinsting, Dan Kelly, Teresa Doggett, Susan Volkan, Michael Paplanus, Don McClendon, Carrie Hegdahl, Alice Kinsella, and Rachel Mitchell, among others.

The Central Visual & Performing Arts High School will also present a theatrical adaptation of Greta Thunberg’s speech to the United Nations called” How Dare You”. Ashleyliane Dance Company will offer selections from their critically acclaimed “Environmental
Intelligence” dance piece.

Additionally, there will be outdoors tabling by environmental groups including Great Rivers Greenway, US Green Building Council – Missouri Gateway Chapter, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Project Animal Freedom, World Bird Sanctuary, Metropolitan Congregations United, Earth Dance Organic Farm School, St Louis Voter Registration Group and more. Street parking is available as well as a paid lot on Euclid Ave between Washington and McPherson Ave.

“The issues facing us are real but so are the opportunities to change the direction of this global crisis,” said Joan Lipkin. “The arts are a pathway to illuminate the issues in an engaging way and also to promote hope, joy and engagement. It is both meaningful and important that St Louis take part in this international arts and ecology movement.”

Produced by Joan Lipkin and Pamela Reckamp, the St Louis event is part of a worldwide series of readings and performances of short plays about the climate crisis and environmental justice. CCTA 2021 will take place from September 19 to December 18 to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26).

The last iteration of CCTA, in 2019, included over 220 events in nearly 25 countries. For more details, the list of participating playwrights, and previous collaborators, see www.climatechangetheatreaction.com.

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis (TWSTL) will increase its reach this summer with a new radio show. “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” is set to launch on July 11. The program will air every other Saturday at 5 p.m. on Classic 107.3 FM. The festival decided to embark on this new venture because “It is important now to unify, elevate and enrich humanity during this very challenging year,” explains Carrie Houk, Executive Artistic Director of TWSTL.

Each episode of “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” will consist of fully produced Williams’ one-act plays along with interviews with scholars, directors and actors. Specific details of each broadcast will be posted on the websites of both Classic 107.3 (classic1073.org) and TWSTL (twstl.org).

Ken Page

Broadway legend and St. Louisan Ken Page will narrate and noted Williams scholar Tom Mitchell will offer commentary on each episode. Performers will include: Nisi Sturgis; Rayme Cornell; J. Samuel Davis; Bob Harvey; Anita Jackson; Tony Merritt II; Elizabeth Teeter; Bradley Tejeda; Rachel Tibbits; Donathan Walters; Kelley Weber; Donna Weinsting and Maggie Wininger.  Brian Hohlfeld, David Kaplan and Tim Ocel will be directing.

“The peak of my virtuosity was in the one-act plays.

Some of which are like firecrackers on a rope.” – Tennessee Williams

“Williams felt that one-acts were his strongest format,” Houk points out. “He started out in St. Louis writing one-act plays, and one of his biggest breaks was winning a competition sponsored by the Group Theater in New York—the first time he signed his name as ‘Tennessee’ rather than ‘Tom.’  He wrote more than 70 throughout his career—sometimes edgy, often experimental, and always infused with his unsurpassed poetry.  Many of them have been presented at the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.”

“Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” will be sponsored by Mary Strauss, Jane and Bruce P. Robert Charitable Foundation, Ted Wight, John Russell and Terry Schnuck, with more patrons to be announced in the coming weeks.

TWSTL’s reboot of their Fifth Annual Festival this fall will focus on Williams’ youth and time spent with The Mummers, an offbeat St. Louis theatre company that tried out a number of his early plays and is immortalized in Williams essay “Something Wild.” As long as conditions remain safe to produce, “Tennessee Williams: Something Wild” will run October 22 through November 1 at The Link Auditorium (thelinkauditorium.org), formerly The Wednesday Club and the theatre where The Mummers performed. 

About the Festival

Star on Walk of Fame in the Delmar Loop

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was established in 2016 by Carrie Houk, the award-winning producer, casting director, actor, and educator.   The Festival, which aims to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic events that celebrate the artistry and life of Tennessee Williams, was named the 2019 Arts Startup of the Year by the Arts & Entertainment Council.

In 2014, Houk produced Williams’ Stairs to the Roof with such success that the on- going annual Festival was established. The inaugural Festival was themed “Tennessee Williams: The St. Louis Years,” followed by “The Magic of the Other” in 2017 and “The French Quarter Years” in 2018. The 2019 festival featured Night of the Iguana and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. As the years have passed, the awards have mounted. Last year’s St. Louis Theater Circle gave them eleven nominations and seven awards, and this year’s seven nominations garnered four more awards. The Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions.

Lead sponsorship of the festival is provided by Emerson.  The Festival is also funded in part by Mary Strauss, Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, The Whitaker Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Humanities Council, Trio Foundation of St Louis and the Arts and Education Council.

About Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams drawing by Al Hirschfeld

Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams moved to St. Louis at age seven, when his father was made an executive with the International Shoe Company (where the City Museum and the Last Hotel are now located). He lived here for more than two decades, attending Washington University, working at the International Shoe Company, and producing his first plays at local theaters. He credited his sometimes difficult experiences in St. Louis for the deeply felt poetic essence that permeates his artistry. When asked later in life when he left St. Louis, he replied, “I never really left.” Most people are familiar with the famous works that have garnered multiple Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards and Academy Awards, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer. He also wrote hundreds of additional plays, stories, essays, and poems, many of which are only now seeing the light of day as his estate permits greater access. He is today considered by many leading authorities to be America’s greatest playwright.

About Classic 107.3

Classic 107.3, “The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis”, broadcasts at 107.3 FM and on KNOU 96.3 HD2 with a mission to support the cultural landscape in the St. Louis region through programming and outreach efforts. Classic 107.3 plays a variety of music from classical to jazz, opera to blues, Broadway and more, and features local programming including the “Slatkin Shuffle”, hosted by conductor Leonard Slatkin, and Musical Ancestries™, designed to educate school-aged children about world music. In addition, the station airs interviews with artists, musicians, creators and performers, bringing their stories and events to the attention of the St. Louis community. Classic 107.3 is a non-profit station, receiving support from listeners as well as organizations like PNC, the William T. Kemper Foundation and others. More information, as well as live streaming, archived interviews, and podcasts can be found at www.classic1073.org.

            COVID-19 Pandemic Results in Production Streamcast by HEC Media

New Jewish Theatre led the way with six awards at the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Max & Louie Productions’ performance of Indecent garnered five awards, followed by four awards to The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis for its production of A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Circle’s gala event for this year’s award ceremony, originally scheduled for March 30, 2020 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, was canceled. Instead, HEC Media produced a version of the ceremonies that was streamcast on HEC Media’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/hectv/live/) as well as telecast on Spectrum channel 989 and AT&T U-verse channel 99. Here is the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/tCo0AFHbChE

Awards were given in 31 categories covering comedies, dramas and musicals as well as two categories for opera. In addition, Ken and Nancy Kranzberg received a special award for their philanthropic contributions to the arts and theater in the St. Louis area, including many developments in Grand Center. The awards honored outstanding achievement in locally produced professional theater for the calendar year 2019.

A total of 21 productions and 14 companies were recognized by the awards, including eight individuals who have received honors in previous years. Will Bonfiglio, honored as Outstanding Actor in a Comedy for his performance in New Jewish Theatre’s production of Fully Committed, received an award for the third time in the last four years.

The 2020 presentation featured nominees from two companies, Black Mirror Theatre and The Q Collective, which were represented for the first time in consideration of St. Louis Theater Circle Awards.  Each company received an award for outstanding achievement.

In all, 25 local companies received nominations in 33 categories for comedy, drama, musical and opera, as well as 125 individuals up for awards. Honorees who have previously received St. Louis Theater Circle Awards include Will Bonfiglio, J. Samuel Davis, Kari Ely, Michael Hamilton, Patrick Huber, Sean M. Savoie, Margery and Peter Spack, and Maggie Wininger.

The mission of the St. Louis Theater Circle is simple: To honor St. Louis professional theater. Other cities around the country, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington D.C., pay tribute to their own local theatrical productions with similar awards programs.

Nominations for the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards were divided into categories for musicals, dramas, comedies and operas.  More than 120 local professional theatrical productions were staged in the St. Louis area in 2019.

Honorees of the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are:

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Kelley Weber, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Patrick Blindauer, Love’s Labors Lost, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy (tie)

Katie Kleiger, Pride and Prejudice, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Maggie Wininger, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy

Will Bonfiglio, Fully Committed, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Comedy

Kari Ely, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Comedy

Brighton Beach Memoirs, New Jewish Theatre


Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Carly Uding, Translations, Black Mirror Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

J. Samuel Davis, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama

Donna Weinsting, Salt, Root and Roe, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Actor in a Drama

Gary Wayne Barker, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Drama

Joanne Gordon, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Production of a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Play

Margery and Peter Spack, Brighton Beach Memoirs, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play

Felia Davenport, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play

Patrick Huber, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Sound Design

Phillip Evans, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical

Mary Engelbreit and Paige Hathaway, Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical

Sarah Porter, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical

Sean M. Savoie, Man of La Mancha, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Musical Director

Charles Creath, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, The Black Rep

Outstanding Choreographer

Dexandro Montalvo, Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,

Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

Taylor Louderman, Kinky Boots, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Tielere Cheatem, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Kendra Kassebaum, Guys and Dolls, The Muny

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Luke Steingruby, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Q Collective

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Michael Hamilton, Man of La Mancha, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Musical

Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,

Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media

Outstanding New Play

Nonsense and Beauty, by Scott C. Sickles, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

La Boheme

Outstanding Achievement in Opera (tie)

Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Roland Wood, Rigoletto, Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of an Opera

La Boheme, Union Avenue Opera

Special Award

Ken and Nancy Kranzberg

Members of the St. Louis Theater Circle include Steve Allen, stagedoorstl.com; Mark Bretz, Ladue News; Bob Cohn, St. Louis Jewish Light; Tina Farmer, KDHX; Michelle Kenyon, snoopstheatrethoughts.com; Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle (HEC Media); Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX; Sarah Bryan Miller, St.Louis Post-Dispatch; Judith Newmark, judyacttwo.com; Ann Lemons Pollack, stlouiseats.typepadcom; Tanya Seale, Broadwayworld.com; Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL.com; Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle (HEC Media); and Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.Eleanor Mullin, local actress and arts supporter, is the group’s administrator. 

For more information, contact stltheatercircle@sbcglobal.net or ‘like’ The St. Louis Theater Circle on Facebook.


By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
“Nonsense and beauty have close connections,” Edward Morgan Forster once wrote.
Playwright Scott Sickles took that phrase as the title of his splendid play,
which the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis helped develop. And oh, what a
starting place it is.

“Nonsense and Beauty,” Sickles’ timeless tale of love and
forgiveness, is set in a very different era where same-sex relationships were mostly
hidden, and famous British author E. M. Forster is caught up in the nonsense
and beauty of a long affair with a man 23 years his junior – who will marry a
woman during this conflicted period.

Not your garden-variety real-life love story, as it
unfolds, we discover a believable love triangle with likable people – no
villains, wrapped in a very complicated forbidden relationship between two complex
men, while on the sidelines, there’s the unrequited love of a dear friend who desires
more. Additionally, there’s the unconditional love of a mother, although a prickly
and miserable woman.

In lesser hands, this would be a turgid soap opera with
starched collars. And while the poignant play unleashes an emotional
rollercoaster, it’s contained in an elegantly rendered production that is
exquisitely acted and sharply directed.
Staged crisply by Seth Gordon downstairs in the Studio Theatre, that intimate
space and the in-the-round format suits the play well. My fondness for the
characters grew with each scene, as their connections with each other were
conveyed so well.

Forster, known to his close friends as Morgan and gay, was
the celebrated novelist (“Howards End,” “A Room with a View,” “Where Angels
Fear to Tread,” “A Passage to India”), a prolific essayist and 16-time nominee
for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Considered a humanist, the stuffy conventions of the
upper-class British society he lived and worked in were a source of material
for him, as he could not live life out loud in such a universal state of
repression. After all, homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom until

He was an intelligent man of impeccable manners, and
Jeffrey Hayenga excels as showing us his wordly refined side, but also his
yearnings and longing for a life he could only imagine. Hayenga’s absorbing
performance is tender and touching.

After he met London policeman Bob Buckingham, a jolly old
chap of no discernable stature, at the Cambridge-Oxford boat race in 1930, they
began a risky on-and-off relationship that would span 40 years.

TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2019 – This is the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’ production of “Nonsense and Beauty” as the Loretto-Hilton Center. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.Their friendship was tested when Bob courted and married smart
and feisty May, a no-nonsense nurse who did not follow up any possible
suspicions about the men spending ‘alone’ time together. She stayed in the
dark, whether it was of her own choosing or she just didn’t go there in her

Forster was a major presence in their family’s lives.
Nobody meant to hurt each other, but oh, what aching and pain endured.

An engaging pair together, Robbie Simpson as Bob and Lori Vega as May displayed genuine sparks as their relationship grows into matrimony and parenthood. Nevertheless, how confusing for all — neither Bob nor Morgan could quit each other, so therefore, their friendship survived through the ups and downs of their lives.

TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2019 – This is the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’ production of “Nonsense and Beauty” as the Loretto-Hilton Center. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.Another constant was longtime friend, the distinguished
writer J.R. Ackerley, wondrously portrayed by John Feltch. He brings more to
the urbane and glib character than tossing off bon mots and smirking about the
confines of society. He pined for more with Morgan, but that was not to be. He
befriends May, something neither expected, and his wit well-serves the

Feltch, so good in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” in
2015 (and St. Louis Theater Circle nominee), has a regal stature and is an
erudite sounding board throughout the show. In the movie, his character would
have been played by Clifton Webb or Vincent Price – or even James Mason.

As E.M. Forster’s battle-ax of a widowed mother, Lily, Donna
Weinsting astutely captures the grand dame’s controlling and cantankerous ways.

The entire ensemble is finely calibrated to show the fragility,
disappointment and deep love between the characters. The play’s bittersweet
nature is imparted in multiple ways.

Brian Sidney Bembridge’s minimal set, enhanced by his eloquent lighting design, allows smooth flow of the characters in conversation. Bembridge won the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for “The Royale.” Felia K. Davenport’s costumes defined the periods succinctly, and Rusty Wandall’s sound design provided nifty vintage touches. Leiber and Stoller’s “Is That All There Is?” was a wise choice to open and close the show.

Gordon, The Rep’s Associate Artistic Director, had nurtured
this project even before he further developed it as part of The Rep’s 2018
Ignite! Festival of New Plays, which he started after coming to the Rep. He
directed its first major public reading in 1996 at the Carnegie Mellon Showcase
of New Plays.

This is the sixth play from “Ignite!” to become a full-fledged
production, and this world premiere is a dandy – a lovingly crafted work of
substance, that means something, where the attention to detail is strong, and
the approach thoughtful.

Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents “Nonsense and Beauty” March 8 – 24 in
the Emerson Studio Theatre, 130 Edgar Road. For tickets or more information,
visit www.repstl.org. Box Office phone is