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A Man of No Importance

The cast of R-S Theatrics' production of "A Man of No Importance."

Photo by Michael Young

Alfie (Mark Kelley), an aging bus conductor who appreciates the finer things, lives with his relatively unimaginative but supportive sister Lily (Stephanie Merritt). Their Dublin residence seems nice enough for a couple of unmarried siblings. But Alfie has found his true home in amateur theater.

“A Man of No Importance,” the charming musical running through Aug. 25 in an R-S Theatrics production, is Alfie’s story. As he attempts to mount a production of Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé,” details of his life are gradually revealed — at least one of which he’d rather keep secret.

Alfie is mostly successful at keeping a safe emotional distance from the townsfolk who take part in his theatrics. But his interest in a young woman named Adele (Lindy Elliott) doesn’t go unnoticed. Could she be the cure for Alfie’s celibacy? Or is he merely eyeing her for the sensual role of Salomé?

Looking on is the ghost of Wilde (Michael B. Perkins), whom Alfie has taken into his confidence.

Based on a 1994 film that starred Albert Finney, “A Man of No Importance” eloquently addresses the fragility of human connection. With a book by Terrence McNally (“Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”), music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the show demands close attention but rewards it with an experience that’s sentimental in the best sense.

Director Christina Rios elicits strong performances — particularly from Kelley, whose Everyman appeal helps orient the audience to this Irish-tinged tale. And the songs are at once essential to the storytelling and beautiful in their own right. The show is a worthy successor to the company’s 2018 triumph, “The Light in the Piazza.”

“A Man of No Importance” takes a few scenes to achieve momentum. But it proves to be the kind of ambitious and offbeat musical that’s only rarely presented on local stages.

Calvin Wilson is theater critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.