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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bill's Best...A Look Back at 2012


Bill’s Best of 2012.

I created my “Theater Colorado” blog in March 2012, so I’ve been writing reviews of Denver area theater productions for nearly a year.  I’ve posted 32 reviews, which is far short of all the available theater out there.  I’m shooting for 50 reviews in 2013, but even that number is only a sampling of the theater buffet in Colorado.

In any event, I thought (granted, not exactly an original thought) that I should summarize the best of the shows I actually saw and reviewed this year.  This should not be taken as the “best” of Denver theater this year; it’s the “best” of what I saw this year.  It’s one person’s opinion, hopefully as valid as the next person’s opinion.

So here it is…”Bill’s Best of 2012.”


Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Dramas

A very difficult category; three productions touched me deeply.  It’s like picking your favorite child.  It can’t be done.  So here are the three outstanding productions that I’ll never forget.  They are in no particular order.  Each could stand alone at the top of the list.

1.  “A Small Fire.”  The Edge Theater Company.

The script is a powerful statement about love, loss, and facing our mortality and preserving our relationships.  Kirsten Brandt’s performance, as she literally loses her senses before our eyes, was stunning.  Paul Page played her perplexed, compassionate husband with unusual delicacy.  “A Small Fire” was an unforgettable evening of theater.





2.  “The Laramie Project.”  Evergreen Players.

The tragedy of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder in 1998 is compelling; the Evergreen Players made it moving and heartbreaking.  Director Angela Astle put together a fabulous cast and made the most of their many talents.  Each actor seamlessly played multiple characters, using simple props and costume variations for each character.  They brought themselves, and the audience to tears as they told the story of an unforgettable hate crime.


3.  “9 Circles.”  Curious Theatre Company.

Bill Cain’s script takes us to the heart of darkness…the March, 2006 massacre at Mahmudiyah Iraq.  The horror of war is brought home in this dark look into the soul of each of us.  How can we endure, much less justify, the atrocities committed in our name?  We can’t.  And that is an ugly, repugnant reality we rarely have to acknowledge.  “9 Circles” delivered that repugnant reality to us.  And I, for one, was both horrified and grateful for the experience.



Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Musical

The Who’s Tommy.”  Littleton Town Hall Arts Center.


The perfect Pinball Wizard.  Where better to see a classic rock opera than in a small venue?  Think great music, played loudly, costumes ranging from flashy to trashy, and a talented cast of singers, dancers, and actors.  Mix in a smoking live band directed by Donna Debreceni, and you’ve got a rocking great evening of musical theater.


Honorable Mentions

Avenue Q,” Boulder’s Dinner Theatre. 

Spring Awakening,” Ignite Theatre.





Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Comedy

Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche.”  Square Product Theater Company.

Laugh out loud funny, “Five Lesbians” put on a comedy clinic at each performance.  Director Rebecca Easton managed to turn the tiny Wesley Chapel space into a 1950s era bomb shelter with pastries.  The cast not only played their roles to the “hilt,” but obviously had a great deal of fun doing so.  I’ll never look at quiche the same way again, and that’s a good thing.

Honorable Mention

The Misanthrope,” Germinal Stage Denver.


Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Actor
 
Sean Scrutchins, “9 Circles.”  Curious Theatre Company.


The script of “9 Circles” is a gem, and Sean Scrutchins role as Daniel Reeves is an actor’s dream.  Scrutchins put his entire being into the role. He became Daniel Reeves for an hour and half each night, and gave us an unforgettable, conflicted, and complicated character.  Reeves crimes were horrendous; the script is based on a true story.  Scrutchins gave us insight into why and how he went over to the dark side, and what it’s like to live with his reality.  This was a marvelous breakout performance for Scrutchins. 

Honorable Mention

Joey Wishnia, “Visiting Mr. Green.”  Cherry Creek Theater


Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Actress


Rhonda Brown, “Red Hot Patriot:  The Kick Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.”  The LIDA Project.

Molly Ivins was a liberal Texas journalist with a razor sharp wit and a penchant for pot stirring.  She skewered Texas politicians with a wink and smile.  Rhonda Brown brought her back to life in a one woman show for the LIDA project.  Brown’s Ivins is brilliant, complicated, and tragic.  Brown delivered flawless performances (I saw it twice) that entertained, enlightened, and endeared her to audiences.  

Honorable Mention

Kirsten Deane, “Bug.”  Devil’s Thumb Theater Company.


Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Ensemble Cast

The Laramie Project.”  Evergreen Players.


Twelve actors took on multiple roles to tell the story of Matthew Shepard’s 1998 murder.  They created all the characters seamlessly, moving from one to the next with ease.  Their performances were heartfelt, and the effect was stunning.  No one left the theater without leaving some tears behind.


Honorable Mention:  

Avenue Q.”  Boulder’s Dinner Theatre.


Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Director.

Christy Montour Larson.  “9 Circles,” “Red” (Curious Theatre); “The Giver” (Denver Center Theater Company)

No contest.  No other director had a 2012 like Christy Montour Larson.  Many directors won’t have a career like Montour Larson’s 2012.  She challenged audiences and actors alike with her work at Curious Theatre.  She entertained and enlightened kids and adults alike with “The Giver.”  She had a truly marvelous 2012.

Honorable Mention

Angela Astle, “The Laramie Project.”  Evergreen Players.

Monday, December 10, 2012

"The Miracle of Tepeyac"




Playwright:  Anthony J. Garcia

Venue
:  Su Teatro, 721 Santa Fe Dr. Denver, CO


Date of Performance:  Sunday, December 9, 2012 (matinee)

Running Time:  2 hours (includes 20 minute intermission).




Let’s be clear.  I’m not in Su Teatro’s target demographic.  By that I mean that my heritage is European (Irish, German), I’m not Catholic, and I don’t speak Spanish.  Despite my cultural, religious and linguistic differences, I totally enjoyed “The Miracle at Tepeyac.”

Culturally specific theater can also be universal in its message.  “The Miracle at Tepeyac” embraces the universality of faith, family, and redemption.  And therein lies its appeal and its power.

Playwright/Director/Executive Artistic Director Anthony Garcia bases his script on a 16th century miracle.  He not only tells the story of the miracle, but he throws in a few contemporary references (”There are no immigration laws in God’s house.”) to put a contemporary spin on the story.  Padre Tomas is a priest who is losing his faith; he can’t reconcile his spiritual duties with the social activism his flock seeks. 

For those who need more background on the plot, you might look here.  However, if you like good theater, you won’t need the background to enjoy this show.  “The Miracle at Tepeyac” is very good theater, and like all good theater, it succeeds no matter what heritage, religion, or historical knowledge you bring to the performance.

Impressive performances abound here.  Lara Gallegos (Virgen de Guadalupe) plays a statue with occasional lines; she maintains the statue pose like, well, a statue.  Gustavo Alonso (Juanito) brings a perfect mix of compassion, comedy, and charm to his role as the custodian of the church.  Aaron Vieyra (Juan Diego) skillfully portrays a persistent yet simple peasant who brings the Archbishiop a message of faith from the Virgin.

Jesse Orgas (Archbishop Zumarraga) and Marcos R. Martinez (Padre Tomas) give us conflicted religious leaders struggling to lead their people through difficult situations.  Their performances earn our sympathy for their struggles. Amy Luna (Señora Maria) is the maternal influence for the cast and for the audience; she anchors the church activities while riding herd on Juanito. 

The show opens and closes with indigenous native dancing provided by Grupo Tlaloc.  Don’t miss it; the dancing alone is worth the price of admission.

I had to come out of my cultural comfort zone for “The Miracle at Tepeyac.”  I had to look into the lives of others with whom I thought I had little in common.  I was wrong.  We have a lot in common. 

You may want to come out of your own cultural comfort zone too.  It can be a richly rewarding experience discovering what we ALL have in common.

Su Teatro has recently taken a big step forward that will help it remain a part of the Denver theater scene.  They have provided a valuable cultural outlet to a substantial part of the Denver community, and they will continue to do so in the future.  However, their message is not just for part of the community; it is for all of us.  Denver has two theater companies that serve distinct communities, and they both make Denver a better place to live.  Su Teatro and Phamaly provide enormous cultural benefits to all of Denver.

Theater, when done well, is universal.  It touches everyone who sees it.  Su Teatro is doing very good theater, and “The Miracle of Tepeyac” touched me deeply.  It will touch you too.

NOTES

This show runs until December 23, 2012.  Performances are on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday evenings, and Sunday matinees.  You might want to reserve your tickets early, the 300 or so seats in the theater were packed at the December 9 performance.

This show is suitable for and recommended to children of all ages.  The music lyrics are in Spanish but most of the script is in English.  You don’t need to be bilingual to understand and enjoy the show. 

For the best view, sit in the back half of the house.  Arrive early; parking can be difficult in this neighborhood.

Director:  Anthony J. Garcia

Cast:
Lara Gallegos:  Virgen de Guadalupe

Aaron Vieyra: Juan Diego

Jesse Orgas:  Archbishop Zumarraga

Gustavo Alonso:  Juanito

Amy Luna:  Señora Maria Galbadon

Marcos R. Martinez:  Padre Tomas

Ray Salas:  Kevin

Gia Valverde:  Cassandra

Camilo Luera:  Julian

Angelina Gurule, Yolanda Ortega, Frank Fresquez:  Coro

Veronica Ramirez, Heather Arellano, Manuel Cabral, Luzila Contreras:  Indian Dancers.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

"The Perfect Gift"


"Winter" (Winter Maza) & "Stacia" (Winnie Wenglewick) 
Playwright:  Winnie Wenglewick

Venue
Denver’s Dangerous Theatre, 2620 W. 2nd Ave #1, Denver, CO


Date of Performance:  Friday, November 30, 2012 (opening night)

Running Time:  1 hours, 10 minutes (no intermission).

Local Christmas productions tend to be either comical or traditional.  “The Perfect Gift” at Denver’s Dangerous Theatre is neither; it breaks the mold by offering us something totally different for this holiday season.

The Perfect Gift” brings back our memories of the childhood holiday traditions we knew; picking out a live Christmas tree, decorating it (lights first) with perfectly placed tinsel.  Back in the day, we spent quality family time together, and argued about whether the perfect tree had long needles or short ones. 

We cherish these memories, but these days Christmas is about material things: shopping, with those supposedly “perfect” holiday gifts appearing on store shelves right after Labor Day.  Just as Stacia (Winnie Wenglewick) struggles with the holidays, so do we.  The meaning is lost in the rush to finish the shopping, the wrapping, the Christmas cards.  We forget the real values of the season.

Stacia is not a happy person; in fact, she’s pretty miserable.  Her friendship with Winter (Winter Maza), a homeless guy with an invisible friend, seems to be the only relationship she cares about.  Winter invites Stacia to his traditional holiday festivities under a bridge with his equally homeless and totally gay friend APJ (j. nick dickert).  It is when Stacia sets the table for three that things start to come into focus for her. 

Without giving away too much of the story, I’ll just say that Stacia learns some things with her homeless friends, and so do we.  Life, love, and loss are universal.  And the holiday season is a great time to stop and think about those we have loved, and those we have lost.  Could it be that by thinking of them, remembering them, and talking to them from time to time, they are not really lost at all? 

Winter Maza and j. nick dickert are convincingly homeless and convincingly wise.  They bring a streetwise sassiness to their roles, and smiles to the faces in the audience.  They have very little (being homeless is even less glamorous than it sounds), but they live a life they choose.  Stacia, on the other hand, lives a life chosen for her by others.     

Winnie Wenglewick does it all here; she’s the playwright, the director, and the female lead actor.  She does all of it well, but she absolutely shines on the stage as Stacia.  She delivers her final speech alone on the stage with all the emotion she can muster.  We can feel her love, and her loss.  She brings herself and the audience to tears.  It’s powerful.  It’s personal.  And it’s memorable.

The Perfect Gift” is “perfect” if you’re looking for something different for the holidays.  It’s not a “wonderful life.”  It’s a real life, and it’s a real holiday.  It may not restore your faith in Christmas, but it will focus you on what really matters at the holidays. 

And for me, that’s a perfect gift for any season.

NOTES
This show runs until December 23.  Performances on:  Thursday (December 13 & 20), Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday matinees (brunch included with tickets).  Mature themes and salty language.

Director:  Winnie Wenglewick

Cast:

Winter Maza:  Winter

Winnie Wenglewick: Stacia

j. nick dickert:  APJ

Maeve Wenglewick:  Katie


All photo credits:  Denver's Dangerous Theatre.

Monday, November 5, 2012

"The Laramie Project"



Playwright:  Moises Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theatre Project

Venue
Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, Evergreen, CO


Date of Performance:  Sunday, November 4, 2012

Running Time:  2 hours, 55 minutes (including two 10 minute intermissions).
Matthew Shepard

“The Laramie Project” is the story of Matthew Shepard.  In October 1998, Shepard was a twenty-one-year-old student at the University of Wyoming.  He was kidnapped, severely beaten and left to die, tied to a fence in a prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming.

His bloody, bruised and battered body was not discovered until the next day.  He died several days later in a Fort Collins hospital. He was murdered because he was gay.

There are rarely times when I am left emotionally and physically drained by a play.  This is one of those times, because “The Laramie Project” is a rare, beautiful, poignant and powerful piece of theater.

The script has been carefully sculpted from over 200 interviews done over the course of a year and half with the people of Laramie.  They tell a story of innocence, cruelty, violence, justice, and ultimately, hope for change.

The cast/ensemble is superb.  It’s not just about their obvious talent; their performances are driven by their great passion for the subject.  They bring many, if not all, in the audience to tears. 

There are many emotional moments in the script, but none as moving as hearing Matthew’s father address the court just before sentencing Matthew's murderers.  As Tony Catanese delivers those words to the audience, we see the ensemble, in the background, wiping their own tears from their eyes.  They weep not because it’s in the script, but because no one, not even those who have heard these words at every performance, can endure the profound tragedy of Matthew’s death.

This is a difficult review to write.  Words cannot describe a sunset; nor can they adequately describe the experience of seeing “The Laramie Project.”  You have to be there when the sun lights up the sky, and you have to be there, in Evergreen, in that room, to experience "The Laramie Project."

Does a theater experience get any better than the “Laramie Project?”  

I think not.  It is a complete package.  Direction, set, lights, sound, cast…nothing misses.  We are reminded that great theater can entertain, inspire, inform, and sometimes it can change your life.  “The Laramie Project” does it all.  


LINK TO MATTHEW SHEPARD FOUNDATION 






NOTES
Time is running out.  This show runs until November 11.  Get your tickets here.  (Mature themes.)


Director:  Angela Astle

Costume Designer:  Terri Fong

Sound Designer:  El Armstrong

Lighting Design:  Jen Orf

Cast (Ensemble):

Laura Adducci

Hunter Cagle

Tony Catanese
Photo Credit:  Rachel Graham.

Gregg Dudding

Ryan Goold

Devra Keys

Emma Messenger

Andrea Rabold

Eric Ross

Ellie Schwartz

Max Schwartz

Marc Stith

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"How The World Began"


Photo credit:  The Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company


Playwright:  Catherine Trieschmann

VenueThe Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO


Date of Performance:  Friday, November 2, 2012

Running Time:  2 hours (including 15 minute intermission).





With a title like “How the World Began,” one would expect a pretty ambitious message, and this production delivers exactly that.  Big ideas, a conflict of core beliefs, and outstanding performances come together here to create an uncommonly rewarding theater experience.

Susan Pierce (played with big dollops of sincerity and condescension by Emily Paton Davies) is a pregnant science teacher who has landed in Plainview Kansas after it was devastated by a tornado.  The seventeen fatalities are still open wounds in the community, and it doesn’t take her long to rub some salt in those wounds.

Pierce, the teacher, is on a dual mission here.  She wants to “do some good” by helping Plainview recover from a tragedy.  She also wants to have health insurance to cover the costs for her pregnancy and childbirth.  Mixing motives that are simultaneously altruistic and selfish diminishes her integrity from the outset.

The new teacher gets into a predictable conflict with the rural Plainview community over “how the world began.”  She teaches evolution, partly because it’s required curriculum, but mostly because it’s one of her core beliefs.  When challenged by Micah Staab, one of her students, she quickly becomes ground zero in the "evolution versus creation" debate.   Those two conflicting and mutually exclusive versions of “the truth” are an impregnable barrier between the teacher and her student.  

The script wisely doesn’t focus the debate on the faith and/or facts required for each theory.  Rather, it spotlights the relationships between the two tribes.  The competing “truths” can never be reconciled; only one explanation can be correct.  True believers on both sides cannot compromise without nullifying their most important principles.  It’s a standoff; no minds will be changed by any inconvenient facts or arguments.  That paradox has a profound, and negative, impact on the way the teacher and the student treat each other.

How The World Began” forces us to examine how we relate to those we do not agree with.  Is there a better option than to dig in your heels?  Do we have to reject both the argument and the person as a package?  If we won’t change our core beliefs, can we at least respect those with whom we disagree? 

Emily Paton Davies brings us a Susan who is likeable but flawed.  She’s always the teacher, trying to share her education and wisdom.  To Micah, she comes off as wrong, arrogant, and disrespectful. 

Ryan Wuestawald’s Micah is a sensitive, thoughtful, and capable foil for Susan’s dismissive platitudes.  He stubbornly uses her own words against her, and in some real sense becomes the teacher himself.  Wuestawald and Davies are acting here at a very high level.  Their performances are stellar; they have mastered both their characters and their craft.

The same can be said of Chris Kendall (Gene Dinkel).  He mixes a simple approach with wisdom not learned in a textbook.  He has wit, charm, and humility.  He challenges the teacher and protects the student.  All three actors bring their “A” games to this production. 

Plainview is a metaphor for the reality of the divided, red state/blue state, black and white environment we live in.  “How The World Began” forces us to examine how we treat our philosophical opponents, who also happen to be our neighbors, friends and family. 

Much like Susan and Micah, I am often focused on which is the “truth,” creationism or evolution.  After seeing “How The World Began,” my focus shifted somewhat.  I’m not sure it matters who is right or what the “truth” is.  

What really matters is that it happened.  The world exists.  That much is undisputed.  The world began, we are here, and we must share this world with others.   Perhaps we should make the best of the reality we are born into, instead of becoming missionaries spreading a “truth” about why we are here. 

I could quibble with the script; it takes a little too long to develop, and sometimes it’s preachy.  But those are minor quibbles.  “How The World Began” gives us big ideas, difficult relationships, and thought provoking theater.  Your own personal evolution may begin at the Dairy Center when you see “How The World Began.”  

There can hardly be a better recommendation for a production than that. 

NOTES

This show runs from November 4 to November 18, with performances Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
Director:  Stephen Weitz

Costume Designer:  Reagan Fair

Sound Designer:  Jenn Calvano

Lighting Design:  Richard Spomer

Cast:

Susan Pierce: Emily Paton Davies

Micah Staab:  Ryan Wuestawald

Gene Dinkel:  Chris Kendall

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins"



Rhonda Brown as Molly Ivins.  Photo Credit:  Ryan Gaddis, The LIDA Project

Playwrights:  Margaret and Allison Engel

VenueThe Laundry on Lawrence, 2701 Lawrence Street, Denver CO

CompanyThe LIDA Project

Date of Performance:  Saturday, October 27, 2012

Running Time:  85 minutes (no intermission).

First, I need to make something abundantly clear.  Molly Ivins was a liberal columnist.  This script is taken from some of her best writing.  It’s political.  Given the deep political divisions these days, roughly half the population would have no interest in the “kick ass” wit of anyone not of their political tribe.  So if you’re a conservative who didn’t or wouldn’t read Ivins under any circumstances, this show probably isn’t for you.

It’s for the rest of us.  And we LOVE it.

If you are not familiar with Ivins, she was a Texas liberal.   Yes, there is such a thing, but they should probably be on a “Politically Endangered List.”  Ivins delighted in the abundant material the Texas Republican Party showered upon her.  In return, she skewered them in print, working, at one time or another, at the HoustonChronicle (the “Cronk”), the TexasObserver, the New York Times, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  Her column was syndicated to more than 300 other newspapers.

Rhonda Brown plays Ivins in what amounts to a one-woman show.  Carrying the entire show is a huge responsibility for any actor, but Brown nails it.  She becomes Ivins on the stage.  She has the Texas accent, the piss and the vinegar, and the comic timing to pull off Ivins.  Standing ovations are all too common, but Brown gets one here for bringing Ivins to life.  This standing ovation was sincere, immediate, and well earned.

The script could have been called “Molly Ivins Greatest Hits,” but that show would have run for days, not just 85 minutes.  I laughed until tears were running down my cheeks.  Yes.  It’s THAT funny.  I see a lot of theater, but rarely do I leave with my sides hurting from laughter.  Presuming you’re in the demographic that finds some humor in the antics of your political rivals, you’ll be laughing just as hard as I was.

Conservatives will not be as amused.  However, that could be because no one is ever going to write about the “kick ass” wit of the right leaning writers out there.  Think about it.  “The Kick Ass Wit of Ann Coulter?”  Not going to happen.  How about “The Best of Right Wing Humor featuring Ann Coulter?”  Nope.  How about “The Comedic Genius of Rush Limbaugh?”  Hardly.  I could go on, but I think I made the point.  Ivins was as unique as she was talented.

Ivins used jokes because they made people “open their ears.”  Not many writers or pundits use humor of any kind anymore.  It’s been replaced with hyperbole, distortion, insults, and volume. And we’re poorer for it.

We still need Molly…or at least someone like her.  As she taught us, we have more political power than any population in any country in history.  We’d be wise to make better use of that power.

Don’t take my word for it.  Whether you’re curious, interested, or passionate about the liberal political viewpoint, DO NOT miss this show.  It’s a very limited run, and the tickets will not last.  If you miss it, you will have missed a rare and wonderful theater experience.

NOTES
This show is scheduled for an extremely limited run (October 25-28).  All the performances are sold out.  However, the run has been extended at the Aurora Fox for six additional performances (November 2-10).  If you’re interested in this production, get your tickets as far in advance as possible.  It will almost certainly sell out for the extended run.

Director/Artistic Director:  Brian Freeland  

Projection Designers:  Brian Freeland, Maya Ciarrocchi

Sound Designer:  Maximillian Peterson

Lighting Design:  Jacob Welch

Cast:

Molly Ivins:  Rhonda Brown

The Helper:  Rhea Amos

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"The Thugs"


Photo credit:  Band of Toughs

Playwright:  Adam Bock

Venue
:  We’re House Performing Arts Center, 5763 Arapahoe Avenue, Unit P, Boulder, CO

CompanyBand of Toughs

Date of Performance:  Friday, October 19, 2012

Running Time:  90 minutes (no intermission).

Work is a four letter word.  We trade time for money.  We are expected to please the boss, even if he or she is clueless.  We put up with it despite the drudgery and the constant friction between the “leadership” and the assorted misfits who pass for co-workers.  It almost doesn’t matter what the workplace is; we sell our time and talent to the highest bidder and then try to survive a toxic environment, one day at a time. 

The Thugs” is a 90 minute visit with seven characters trapped in a modern “Myth of Sisyphus.”  It’s a little scary; I recognized many of the characters from my own work experience: 

·      The one who sucks up to the boss and snitches on the rest of us. 

·      The boss who is clueless. 

·      The slacker who pretends to work.

·      The one who whispers gossip, just to stir things up.

·      The co-worker who is a little crazy, takes credit for your work, and whines to the boss when he or she isn’t getting enough attention.

I know these people.  And chances are you do too.

Adam Bock’s script (he also authored one of my favorite new plays, "A Small Fire") tosses these “temp” worker stereotypes into a mind-numbing task:  reviewing class action documents at a law firm.  That task can suck the heart and soul out of any sane person. Mercedes (Colleen Mylott) and Elaine (Cynthia Ward) don’t start out with a particularly good grasp on their sanity.  The others start losing theirs as well as the focus turns from work to survival.

The performances here are spot on.  Colleen Mylott (Mercedes) is the perfect snitch.  She’s socially deficient, insecure, and on a never ending, but futile, search for acceptance.  Elaine (Cynthia Ward) is a perfect mix of pouty, provocative, and brief episodes of becoming slightly unhinged.  Laura Ann Samuelson (Daphne), the gum chewing slacker whose boyfriend knocks her around, is bound for tragedy.  Bart (Matt Madsen) is the crew’s gossiper, and he nails it. 

Fortunately, there is one temp who seems fairly normal.  Mary (Alana Eve Burman) tries unsuccessfully to bring the crazies back from the edge.  In one of the best scenes in the show, she takes a two minute vacation from the whole mess, putting on her headphones and dancing to the music in her head.  That two minute dance reminds us that we all need to escape the craziness from time to time, even if it’s just a brief respite. 

Director Rebecca Easton carefully paces the show by raising and lowering the lighting between scenes to demonstrate the passing of time.  Some of those scene changes resemble photographs; the characters are briefly seen posed in a realistic portrait.  The effect is quite extraordinary. 

Easton also makes creative use of the limitations of the warehouse space. The stairway needed to get backstage becomes an access to the rest of the world.  The banker boxes stored upstage provide seclusion for Joey to confront Daphne.  Easton injects abundant doses of reality into the entire performance; when the crew goes to lunch, they are eating real food at their desks and tables.

This production is a quirky, interesting venture into a working world we know.  It’s a place we go to every day, and escape from every night.  It doesn’t matter whether you work in a law office, a restaurant, a hospital, a school, or anywhere else.  You’ll see the same characters in every work place.  This play works because it holds up a mirror to our lives.

If you’re looking for interesting, edgy theater that will entertain you and perhaps enlighten you, check out “The Thugs.”  You will definitely enjoy the performances, the characters, and the tasks they have.  Heads up, though.  You may look at work differently on Monday morning when you punch in.

NOTES

This show runs through Saturday, November 3, 2012.  If you haven’t been to this venue before (or to the nearby Avery Brewery), leave a little early.  It’s in a complex of small businesses, set back from the street.  Be careful where you park; some of the available spaces are reserved for other businesses. 

Director:  Rebecca Easton  

Production Designer:  Andrew Metzroth

Sound Designer:  David Ortolano

Cast:

Diane:  Joan Bruemmer

Mary:  Alana Eve Burman

Chantal:  Gustine Fudickar

Joey:  Kevin Lowry

Bart:  Matt Madsen

Mercedes:  Colleen Mylott

Daphne:  Laura Ann Samuelson

Elaine:  Cynthia Ward