Sunday, October 26, 2014

Good Television
Ashton and Abster Productions: 10/10 – 11/1



    L-R: Ben Cowhick, Christine Sharpe and Miriam Tobin



     Rob McLachlan’s “Good Television,” now on view in the Studio Theatre at Aurora Fox Arts, is a provocative evening of theatre that asks lots of questions about Reality TV and manages to keep from presenting any facile solutions.
     At the top of the play a crew of ratings-hungry television folk creates a show that would allow the viewing audience to follow a meth head through his daily life in exchange for his family’s participation in the project.  They promise the family an all expense paid trip for the addict-unbeknownst to him- to the rehab clinic.
     The dysfunctional family that’s chosen is forced to weigh questions of the exploitation of the addict’s personal rights with the possibility of his freedom from meth hell.
     Ben Cowhick’s performance in the role of Clemmy, the meth addict, is so studied and powerfully executed it nearly dwarfs the material. When Mr. Cowhick is onstage you can’t take your eyes off him. When he’s not onstage one prays for his return. The visceral edge given the piece by his nuanced physiological behaviors, facial expressions and verbal anomalies is nothing short of phenomenal.
     Abby Apple Boes is great as Bernice, a hard as nails, take no prisoners television producer.  
     Miriam Tobin (Tara) does a fine job being the new kid on the block who fears the nepotism that got her the job will not be enough to create the success she desires.
     Sam Gilstrap provides a strong performance as Ethan Turner, the guy who steps in when Bernice finds a more lucrative job at another studio.
     Jack Wefso explodes in a visceral performance as Mackson, a previously absent and neglectful brother, who arrives just as the filming begins.
     Steef Sealy is amusing as a prodigal alcoholic father who has found the Lord at the 12-step meeting.  
     Lauren Bahlman is fine as a production assistant whose values come up against the almighty television rating and who winds up getting some heartfelt advice over the phone from Clemmy’s sister, Brittany, played by Christine Sharpe.
     John Ashton’s clear-eyed direction is at its best in the confrontational scene between the family and the film crew.

For tickets go online to aurorafox.org 

or call 303-739-1970Marlowe's Musings

Monday, October 20, 2014

Buried Child
The Edge Theatre: 10/17 – 11/16

     On April 3, 1975 the War in Viet Nam ended.

     This was the first war that the nuclear family in America had been able to experience from a seat right in front of their television watching Vietnamese people be napalmed on the evening news and hearing Lyndon Johnson and then Richard Nixon talking about saving the world from Communism.  
      When our boys in uniform returned they returned to jeers of “Baby Killers!” They were not recognized as the good patriotic boys they had seemed marching off to war. They were not given parades as their fathers had upon returning from Europe and Japan. They were disinherited, disenfranchised, disowned. They were, like their fallen and dismembered brothers, our nation’s …buried children.
     In 1979 Sam Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for “Buried Child,” his play about the obliteration of the American Dream.

     L-R: Dan Mundell, Rob Kramer, Emma Messenger, Missy Moore, Royce Roeswood and Brian Landis-Folkins seated.

Shepard’s play, set in a “realistic” farm house in Illinois, holds the detached remnants of what may have once been a real American family with real American values. There are strokes of surrealism and of symbolism imbedded in Shepard’s script, which on a first glance may seem disconnected. However… they are not.
     Rick Bernstein does yeoman’s service to Shepard’s American nightmare with superlative direction that elicits engaging performances from a very good cast.
      Emma Messenger is powerful as Haley, a harridan of a matriarch who has emasculated her husband by committing incest with one of their sons and continues to humiliate him by openly having an affair with Father Dewis, their parish priest. Missy Moore portrays Shelly, the voice of reason in the play, who tries to find something beyond dysfunction in this family of lost souls. Ms Moore’s performance is nuanced in such a way as to understand why her work upon the stage is in constant demand.

      As Tilden, the son who had sexual relations with Haley, Rob Kramer is appropriately dim and mentally absent.
     Tim Fishbaugh gives us a mild-mannered, if somewhat deluded man of the cloth.
   Brian Landis Folkins turns in a fine portrayal of Bradley that starts as a threat and ends up a whimper. 
     Dan Mundell does an admirable job of portraying the impotent, gravel-voiced patriarch.
     Royce Roeswood is Vince, the son/grandson who, unrecognized, comes home from the war to the spiritual squalor of what once was home. Mr. Roeswood’s work in this production makes us feel the depth of rage with which playwright Shepard encoded his script.
      This is a heavy hitter in all aspects. It's recommended for all lovers of dark serious drama with multiple layers and meanings.

The Edge Theater presents
“Buried Child”
Shelly is charmed by Vince's farm house until she meets his crazy family.
Oct. 17 - Nov. 16
Fri./Sat. @ 8 p.m.; Sun. @ 6 p.m.
No Show on Sunday, November 2 / $15 Industry Night, Mon., Nov. 3 @ 8 p.m.
Tickets: $22 - $26/ $15 on Nov. 3
303-232-0363 or online at www.theedgetheater.com.
The Edge Theatre, 1560 Teller Street, Suite 200, Lakewood CO 80214. Free Parking.Marlowe's Musings

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Second Helping
(The Church Basement Ladies sequel)
BDT Stage: Through November 8

     Even if that old time religion doesn’t figure into your favorite subject matter for a musical, you may find yourself falling in love with the strait-laced ladies who are stirring the pot in this Lutheran church basement.
Left to right: Sarah Grover, Bren. Eyestone Burron, Wayne Kennedy, Barb Reeves and Tracy Warren.

     Frothy, fluffy and feather-weight, this “sequel to “The Church Basement Ladies” is a musical designed for a family crowd. On the night this reviewer was in attendance there were several church groups, which, from the sound of the guffaws, they must already be lying in wait for a “third helping.”

     Although the cast is made up of a number of BDT Stage favorites, much of the plum schtick is ladled out to Barb Reeves (Vivian) and Bren. Eyestone Burron (Mavis).

     When Eyestone. Burron is onstage it’s impossible to keep your eyes off of her. This actor is the Imogene Coca/Carol Burnett of Colorado theatre. Nearly all of her outrageous facial expressions send aftershocks of the convulsive variety through her seemingly unsuspecting physiology while eliciting gales of laughter from the audience.

     In this installment of the CBLs however, it’s Ms. Reeves who gets the plum role. Her singing of “Vivian’s Bad Trip” to “The Cities” is a comedic wowzer. This artist's vocalization of Dennis Curley’s and Drew Jansen’s very funny song is made all the funnier by Reeves’ outrageous glissandos.

     Sarah Grover (Beverly), who enchanted us all as Dorothy in BDT Stage’s “The Wizard of Oz,” finds out once again that coming home to love and affection is about as good as it gets.

     Tracy Warren (Henry Award for her performance of the role of Irene Molloy for “Hello Dolly”) provides sparkle and warmth as Beverly’s mother.

     Wayne Kennedy, who will play Tevye in BDT Stage’s “Fiddler on the Roof” next month, is a hoot as the pastor.

     Music conductor Neal Dunfee accompanies the cast tinkling the ivories with his usual professionalism.
     Jessica Hindsley did the amiable choreography.
     The intentionally frumpy costume design is by Linda Morken.

     There is a glossary of terms provided in the program for those who are unfamiliar with dishes such as Lutefisk and Rummegrot and “who don’t know how to speak Minnesotan.”

     If you have any Lutheran friends or neighbors be sure to invite them. The jokes stem mainly from a down-home take on old-fashioned religious faith peppered with a mildly self-deprecating Scandinavian flavor.

Uff Da!



BDT Stage is the new name for what for 37 years has been  known as Boulder’s Dinner Theatre. It’s located at 5501 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder

For tickets call the box office at 303-449-6000Marlowe's Musings

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Outgoing Tide
The Firehouse Theater Company: October 10 – November 8


Left to right: Adamo Pinti and Jim Landis

     Bruce Graham’s “The Outgoing Tide,” now on view at The John Hand Theatre on Lowry, is a play that addresses questions about death and dying we all have to face about loved ones who are aging. Beyond that it makes us all aware that at some point we’re all going to have to address these issues for ourselves.
   Steve Tangedal directs this three-person play with a sensitive light touch.
     Jim Landis turns in an admirable portrayal of Gunner, a man who is frustrated with the dimming of his mental faculties and concerned about providing for his family after he’s gone. Landis’ ability to lapse from a giddy semi-lucid elation to confused disorientation at the inability to remember the simplest of words is remarkable.


                                                    Jim Landis and Deborah Curtis

     Deborah Curtis( "The Road to Mecca" and "Death by Design") portrays Peg, a wife and mother who does all she can to provide options, which she believes will allow for the possiblilty of her husband’s comfortably “aging in place.”
    Adamo Pinti is Jack, a son who finds himself moving from denial to acceptance of his father’s final wishes while dealing with conflictual memories of the past.
     Jeffrey Jesmer’s scenic design for their summer cottage on Chesapeake Bay is thoroughly well done.  Jesmer’s creation allows us to see the aging Gunner sitting on a pier in an armchair while appearing to fish.
     Steve Tangedal’s very fine lighting design is one of the best features of this production.
    The sound design by Luke Allen Terry is his usual professional work.
     Greg Alan West’s costume design - especially that for Mr. Landis - is spot on.
     Compassionate and ultimately heart breaking, the play comes with high recommendations.

For tickets go to firehousetheatercompany.com or call 303-562-3232
The John Hand Theater is located at 7653 E. 1st Place, Denver, CO 80230

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

HAROLD AND MAUDE
VINTAGE THEATRE: 10/3 – 11/9


                          Jose Zuniga and Deborah Persoff


     The wait is over! “Harold and Maude” is now on view at Vintage Theatre. Based upon the screenplay of the cult favorite 1971 movie, Colin Higgins’ stage adaptation is both poignant and funny.
     Director Pam Clifton has done a superb job bringing this show - full of daunting special effects - to the stage. Clifton elicits strong, affectionately drawn performances from a well-chosen cast and paces the show at an appropriately casual clip that allows us to savor the delicious moments that arrive regularly in this dark romantic comedy.
     Deborah Persoff (“Grey Gardens” and “The Lyons”) plays Maude with a vital earthy vigor that is endearing. Persoff imbues Maude with a palpable inner warmth that’s luminous.

     
      Deborah Persoff and Jose Zuniga

      Jose Zuniga is Harold, a manically depressed young man whose obsession with death leads him to attend the funerals of complete strangers. It’s at one of these memorial services that Harold meets Maude. Zuniga, who was critically acclaimed for his portrayal of Alan Strang in the Vintage Theatre production of “Equus,” succeeds wonderfully enacting the passive aggressive behaviors of Harold. His journey from morbidity to joie de vivre is heart opening!


                            Sheri Right and Samara Bridwell


      Sheri Right plays Harold’s mother Helen with a smooth self-absorbed nonchalance that makes us see why her son is acting out. Elegantly dressed in Christine Samar’s wardrobe design, Right tries to get Harold interested in three young women from the dating service - all played with consummate skill by Samara Bridwell.
     The piggyback set by Douglas Clarke is thoroughly well designed allowing us entrance to Maude’s home above and Harold’s mother’s house below.
     Sonsharae Tull plays Marie, a housemaid who becomes increasingly unnerved by Harold’s morbid vignettes. Ms. Tull is aided in no small part by the increasingly “freaked out” wigs created by Megan O’Connor.
     Joey Wishnia is Father Finnegan, a priest who, while unable to condone Harold’s ‘eccentricities,’ reveals more about himself than his beliefs about life, in a speech that, while somewhat brief, brings gales of laughter from the audience.
     Joseph Wilson is Dr. Matthews, the psychoanalyst who tries to cure Harold. The therapy scene in which Harold mirrors the doctor’s body language is hilarious.
     Lynn Nicholson’s Inspector Bernard is the voice of social conformity. His adherence to what the consensus believes to be common sense provides exaggerated contrast to Maude’s outrageously openhearted approach to life.
Vintage Theatre presents
“Harold and Maude”
Oct. 3 - Nov. 8*
Fri/Sat at 7:30 p.m.; Sun at 2:30 p.m.; Thurs. Nov. 6 @ 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 8 @ 2:30 p.m.
$26 ($21 advance); Groups of 6+ $18
303-856-7830 or online at www.vintagetheatre.com
Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora 80010
*Please note Date Change from (Oct 17 - Nov 16)Marlowe's Musings