Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Don Juan in Hell
Germinal Stage Denver: 11/9 – 12/16

     Wise, witty and extremely verbose, George Bernard Shaw’s “ Don Juan in Hell” is a thinking man’s/woman’s play.
     Baierlein’s aesthetically pleasing scenic design is the very picture of balance order and harmony. One is drawn into this immaculate drawing room in Hell by a blue lighting that soothes and invites. Four gorgeous mahogany chairs are the main furnishings of this simple and civilized place. A table with a vase of flowers, a decanter of liquor and four glasses serves as background.
     In their incarnations on earth Don Juan killed Dona Ana’s father, who one may remember damned Juan to Hell in the grand finale of Mozart’s opera. The characters in this play (Act) mirror and illuminate those in the other three Acts of Shaw’s “Man and Superman.”
       Both Don Juan (Terry Burnsed) and Dona Ana are intentionally hidden from view by their costuming in the opening scene. Ostensibly this is because of ego (an enormously ornate hat) in the case of the Don and a robe with cowel for Dona Ana (Julie Michalak) to hide a lady-like sensitivity to age issues. She was 70 upon leaving the earth life experience and doesn’t know that when she unveils herself in Hell she will be whatever age she likes. In this case she chooses late thirties.
     Burnsed, Michalak and Caouette are all superb. However… Michael Shaloub steals the show as the unctuously civil and polite Devil who is dressed like a B movie producer from Malibu.
     Shaw’s irreverence toward the social institutions of his day lampoons the institutions of marriage (“Marriage is the most licentious of institutions.”) and the church (“the flies and fleas and fathers of the Church”) as well as the inhabitants of jolly old England. “The devil’s greatest following is in England. An Englishman thinks himself moral when he’s merely uncomfortable.”
        The costumes are all well designed by Sallie Diamond. The costume for the Statue of the Commendatore (Paul A. Caouette) is of special note. Magnificent!
         Philosopher, rhetorician and outspoken polemicist, Shaw’s Irish wit and wisdom provide the ear with a cascade of amusing profundity. His words flow so clearly and articulately from the mouths of these four artists that it astounds.Heaven it seems is the home of rational thought while Hell houses those who have espoused the virtues on earth. Heaven is to steer and Hell to drift. There are so many bons mots, axioms and witticisms in this evening of theatre that even Baierlein can’t resist getting into the act. In a moment of self-deprecating hilarity we learn that “Hell is like a long wordy play with only one Intermission.”  PSHAW!
     Don Juan in Hell is Act Three (The Dream) of "Man and Superman" and is often performed alone. Shaw’s version of Hell predates Sartre’s that “Hell is other people.” The only other definition I know is Jim Carrey’s: “Maybe there is no actual place called hell. Maybe hell is just having to listen to our grandparents breathe through their noses when they’re eating sandwiches.”

            Run to get tickets!Marlowe's Musings

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Time Stands Still
Curious Theatre Company: 11/3 – 12/15

  Christy Montour-Larson is the director of “Time Stands Still.” Need I say more?
     When one sees that this lady is in the director’s chair he can be assured that the production will be grand. As usual the casting is impeccable and the technical work overseen in detail.
                                Left to right: Michael Morgan and Tara Falk

     Tara Falk plays the photojournalist at the heart of the show. Michael Morgan is her foreign correspondent amour. David Russell plays a publisher friend who has a new squeeze named Mandy,played by Devon Bloom.

                                        Left to right: Devon James, David Russell and Tara Falk

     Ms. Falk comes with credits from Broadway and Off Broadway as well as several for her work in television. Falk is a superb actor and flawless in her delivery of the part of Sarah Goodwin. Devon James is superb as the ditzy and utterly enchanting Mandy Bloom. Michael Morgan is outstanding in his performance of the role of James Dodd, the foreign correspondent boy friend of Sarah Goodwin. David Russell is brilliant as Richard Ehrlich. His portrayal gives us a man of sharp intellect with a sterling sense of humor.

     Donald Margulies’ play is thoroughly engrossing and perhaps reaches for a little more than it can deliver.

    At the top of Act Two Sarah and James get married and are seemingly ready to be done with the foreign wars. Richard and Mandy are pregnant. Very shortly Sarah realizes that she is not willing to give up her life as a photojournalist and James reluctantly looks elsewhere for a wife. His choice, a Cambodian E.R. doctor with a twelve-year-old kid.

     There are some very large philosophical questions that are raised in the course of the play that are either unanswered or simply glossed over. The most disturbing of these is whether it would be better to help a critically injured person and save him/her or to get explosively illustrative fotos that may hopefully impact the ending of the war.

     What Margulies does succeed at is showing the need to find one’s way in life as early as possible since Time Stands Still for no one.

      When one is constantly looking at Life through the camera’s lens he can capture moments in Life but never experience it.
       The final moment of the show points this up with devastating, heartbreaking clarity.
This is an outstanding production. You owe it to yourself to see it.
Not to be missed!

Call 303-623-0524 or go online at curioustheatre.org for tickets.
Curious Theatre is located at 1080 Acoma St. in Denver.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

                          Kiss of the Spider Woman
                                           Vintage Theatre: 10/27 – 12/2
                                          Megan Van De Hey as Aurora
     Heartbreaking and haunting, director Craig Bond’s production of “Kiss of the Spider Woman” is one you really must see… and hear.
     The musical had just about everything going for it by the time it hit Broadway. Music by Kander and Ebb (“Cabaret” and “Chicago”) book by Terrence McNally (“Ragtime” and “The Full Monty”) and all based on the highly successful novel by Manuel Puig. Besides winning multiple Drama Desk and Olivier Awards, “Kiss” snagged Tonys for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book for a Musical.
     It’s the story of two men caged in a Latin American prison cell. Molina is a homosexual window dresser who’s been jailed for eight years for “corrupting a minor.” He clouds the ugly reality of prison life by escaping into fantasies involving memories of Aurora, a movie diva who once frightened him as a vampy film character called the spider woman who killed with her kiss.
     Molina’s cellmate is Valentin, a virile revolutionary type who’s been captured and tortured for his Marxist leanings.
     The show takes place entirely in the tiny claustrophobic prison cell and then expands into the sprawling Cinemascope fantasies conjured up in Molina’s imagination.
     The cast is huge and the chorus includes some seasoned dancers and a number of cute new chorus boys. Director Craig Bond has brought in Ron “Ronnie” Marriott, a choreographer who has worked for many years on Broadway to give the choreography for this show that sensibility needed to conjure up memories of the sweep of those big old nostalgic musicals of yester-year. The music is infectious and Mitch Samu’s musical direction makes it indelibly so.
     Megan Van de Hey’s performance of Aurora, The Spider Woman, is so outrageously well done the memory of her work will be forever etched in your mind. With every syncopated beat she gives us movement a la the physiology of the female spider. Here is yet another coup de theatre performed by this brilliant actor. Her performance is creepy, unsettling and you will not be able to take your eyes off of her.
     Brian Merz-Hutchinson’s portrayal of Valentin is a brilliant tour de force. Powerful and gut-wrenching, Merz-Hutchinson’s arc from homophobic disgust to a tender affection for his cellmate Molina is out pictured with a gritty brio that very few actors in our community could match. His performance of the heart-pounding anthem, “The Day After That,” will put you in mind of those glorious anthems in “Les Mis.”
     L to R: Julie Lemieux, Gabe Morales, Brian Merz-Hutchinson and Deborah Persoff

         Gabe Morales provides us with an endearing portrait of Molina, the gay window dresser who has been imprisoned because of his sexual orientation. Morales creates a strikingly complex character whose love for Valentin and for his mother entangle him in a web of love and delusion.
     Deborah Persoff plays Molina’s mother with a gentling almost ritualistic compassion as she mirrors his (Molina’s) gestures with her own and soothes him by clouding the ugly realities of prison life with her attentive presence. (It’s interesting to note that the writing of this character provided the Broadway musical theatre with its first portrait of a mother who unconditionally loves and accepts her gay son.)
       Julie Lemieux is remarkable in the role of Valentin’s wife, Marta. Ms. Lemieux is an actor with real stage presence. Although her role is small her impact is significant and one looks forward to seeing her again soon upon the boards.
     The singing of the quartet, “Dear One” by Ms. Persoff, Ms. Lemieux , Merz-Hutchinson and Morales is profoundly moving.
     Preston Britton stands out in the ensemble of prisoners, as do Brian Walker-Smith and Brian Murray in that of the guards and warden.
     Sean Cochrane’s very fine set design deconstructs from the ugly experience of the prison cell to the sprawling movie musical fantasy that Molina conjures.
     Not to be missed!
Vintage Theatre presents

Kiss of the Spider Woman 
The complex relationship between two men caged together in a Latin American prison is explored.
Oct. 27 - Dec. 2
Fri/Sat at 7:30 p.m.; Sun at 2:30 p.m.
Fri/Sat $30; Sun $25 303-856-7830 or online at www.vintagetheatre.com
NEW Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora 80010

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cinco de Vox
Su Teatro: 10/26 – 11/11

     “Cinco de Vox” is the fifth installment of the series of Vox Phamalia plays created by Edith Weiss and the members of PHAMALY, Denver’s critically acclaimed theatre company. For five years Weiss and the members of this talented group have gotten together and written sketches that illuminate experiences, which frustrate and/or infuriate individuals who are misunderstood and treated with disrespect by "the normies."  Whether it's provoked by stereotyping or just plain ignorance, PHAMALY’s mostly humorous sketches provide them a chance to give their point of view and show “the normies” how ridiculous they are.

     These artists give the theatergoing public a chance to get entertained while they’re being educated. (Moliere did a similar thing with his audience long ago. And like his audience, we as attendees may sometimes find ourselves laughing at ourselves as they did.) At the core what PHAMALY does with these sketches is point up the truth that we are all human beings looking for love and respect and when we get that other stuff it pisses us off!
     A staple of this show is a sketch in which Denver favorite Lucy Roucis appears as Mother Goose. As Roucis unspools the traditional fairy tale of Snow White to a group of politically correct listeners even the title is seen as “racial profiling.” Perhaps it would be better to think of this character as “Snow Flesh-Hued.” The seven dwarfs are corrected to be seven “vertically challenged” men. Happy is “over medicated and  “Dopey” is “traumatic brain injured.” It’s a treat to see Roucis respond to the listeners as this traditional fairy tale gets buried in political correctness. Her performance is worth the price of admission all on its own.
     Some of PHAMALY’s humor is dark but it’s always funny. In the program notes Director Edith Weiss quotes Ann Lamott in saying that “Laughter is carbonated holiness.”
      Weiss and co-director/co-writer Jeremy Palmer have a real winner on their hands this year.
     The only problem is that it’s nearly sold out for the run. So you’d better …
Run to get a ticket!!!!

Vox PHAMALIA: Cinco de VOX
Vox presents a unique and comedic perspective on living with a disability. It’s how the 17% roll.
October 26 - November 11
Fri./Sat. @ 7:30 p.m.; Sun. @ 2 p.m.; Special Performance: Monday, October 29 @ 7:30 p.m.
$20; Groups of 6 or more: $12 each; Oct. 29 special performance - all seats $10
Tickets are available by calling 303-575-0005 or online at www.phamaly.org
Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe. Dr., Denver, CO 80126
NOTE: Vox PHAMALIA: is intended for mature audiences, 16 and older.