Sunday, August 18, 2013


 Playwright: Mary Zimmerman

Original Source:  The Myths of Ovid; The Metamorphoses
Venue:  Aurora Fox Studio Theater,  9900 East Colfax, Aurora, CO
Running Time:  2 hours (includes 20 minute intermission)
Date of Performance:  Saturday, August 17, 2013
From the moment you enter the intimate Studio Theater at the Aurora Fox, you know this is a special production.  The set is stunning.  To say it is unusual does not do it justice.  The stage is dominated by a large pool of water, softly lit in a soothing blue color.  As you wait for the show to start, you will have a very hard time taking your eyes off this beautiful set.
For those who haven't heard, the play takes place in and around this body of water.  One might wonder if that is simply a gimmick.  I assure you it is not.  The pool is the perfect metaphor for the sustenance and transformations water provides us.  The set enables many dramatic opportunities, including full immersion, splashing, paddling, and cleansing. That said, though, the best use of the set is for telling Ovid's stories through the power and promise of the water that sustains our lives.
The play is based on Ovid's 8 A.D. poem The Metamorphoses (translation:  "The Book of Transformations").  The original work is a collection of approximately 250 myths organized into 15 books.  Ovid's recurring theme is love, and Mary Zimmerman's play focuses on the best of those love stories.
Some of the myths, King Midas, for example are familiar; others are more obscure.  Each, however, teaches us something about love, be it courting, the price of incest, the loss of a loved one, or the last request of a poor married couple.  Each is exquisitely staged, performed, and lighted to bring the impact of  Ovid's messages to us 2,000 years later.
Ryan Wuestewald, Zachary Andrews, Justin Walvoord
Every cast member plays multiple roles, and all wind up in the pool of water.  The physical demands are substantial, as actors plunge into the pool from every angle, including from above. The constant temperature changes, from the water to the air, in soaking wet and heavy costumes, is a unique acting challenge.  
The cast is equal to that challenge, using the pool as if it is their normal acting environment.  Every actor here brings his or her A game while dealing with multiple costume changes and a constant shift between being dry and soaked.  Singling any of them out is impossible; each delivers a gifted, inspired, unique and flawless performance.  
Director Geoffrey Kent makes full use of the unique set and all the talent he puts on it.  The first time we see an actor unexpectedly emerge from under the water, Kent has us asking ourselves "how did they do that?"  Kent moves actors around, through, in, and above the pool in an elegant dance that keeps the audience totally engaged in the action and the set.
However, it is the final scene that one remembers when leaving the theater, and here Kent has given us a beautifully staged, powerful love poem to take home with us.  The beauty of that exquisitely lit scene, with the entire cast onstage, is emotionally moving and unforgettable.
Metamorphoses is one of those rare theater experiences that reminds us why we love theater.  We get to spend two hours submerged in the beauty of the story, the setting, and the 2,000 year old messages delivered to us by very talented professionals.  It's a mesmerizing, captivating, and gratifying experience. 
You almost certainly have not seen anything like Metamorphoses before, and you may never have the opportunity to see it again. The venue is small (I'd guess about 50-60 seats), and the run is over on September 22.  If you're a theater fan, you do not want to miss Metamorphoses.  Get your tickets before they're gone.
Zachary Andrews, Jaimie Morgan
There is ample parking behind the theater and on the nearby streets (except Colfax).  This show is suitable for all ages.  Seating is reserved, and tickets will be difficult to get.  Patrons seated in the first row will be provided plastic rain gear to avoid getting too wet.  The room is kept warm for the actors comfort.

Due to the extraordinary efforts needed to create such an elaborate set, I have included the construction crew in the credits below.
This show closes on September 22, 2013.  
Photo Credits:  Aurora Fox Arts Center

Director:  Geoffrey Kent
Technical Director (Water):  Brandon Phillip Case
Scenic Design:  Charles Dean Packard
Sound Design:  William Burns
Lighting Design:  Shannon McKinney
Dramaturg:  Bianca Gordon
Costume Design:  Meghan Anderson Doyle
Stage Manager:  Lindsay Sullivan
Construction Crew:  Brandon Case, Jeff Jesmer, Dustin Hartley, Miles Goeglein, David Kading, Grace Crummett, Wyatt MacNeil, Hannah Brunner, Katy Dawson, Blake Nelson-Dunki, Sammy Landau, Robert Michael Sanders.
Cyex and others:  Zachary Andrews  
Aleyone and others:  Michelle Y. Hurtubise
Aphrodite and others: Jaimie Morgan
Midas and others:  Michael Morgan 
Nursemaid and others:  Jada Roberts 
Myrrha and others:  Carmen Vreeman 
Erysichthon and others:  Justin Walvoord
Phaeton and others:  Ryan Wuestewald 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wonder of the World

Wonder of the World.  Haley Johnson, Lindsey Pierce.

Wonder of the World
Playwright: David Lindsay-Abaire
Company:  Miner's Alley Playhouse
VenueMiner's Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, CO
Running Time:  2 hours, 30 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance:  Friday, August 16, 2013

Spoiler alert.  No...not that kind.  I'm not going to give away the plot here.  Rather, I'm alerting the reader that I'm not recommending this play.  Please take my recommendation with a grain of salt.  For personal reasons, this was not a good experience for me; it may be different (and better) for you.
The title, Wonder of the World, refers to one of the wonders of the world (but the reference is debatable):  Niagara Falls.  Niagara Falls is no doubt spectacular, and it is not just the setting for most of the play, but nearly rises to the level of being an actual character as well.  
To be completely fair, there is a lot that is worthwhile in the Miner's Alley production.  
Cast of "Wonder of the World," including stage hands (back row) John Kramer, Tyler Roach, Melissa Rios
The acting is top notch; Haley Johnson as Cass is alternately thoughtful, playful, distracted, and angry...all done with the conviction and force she can muster.  Matthew Blood-Smyth is marvelous.  His Kip is mousy, frightened, disturbed, perverted, but not without a dash of charm. Lindsey Pierce as the suicidal Lois is especially striking.  She has a quick wit, attitude, and an excellent sense of timing, despite her chronic desperation.  Christian Mast (Captain), is a seasoned stage veteran who appeared in one of my favorite all time local productions.  He is on top of his game here, playing a Captain of a Maid of the Mist vessel who is seduced by Cass and ultimately dispatched permanently right on stage.
My problem is not with the acting, nor with the technical (sound, lights, etc) elements.  Robert Kramer's direction was creative and well paced, although I did find the helicopter scene rather juvenile.  In what is a fairly unusual move, Kramer made the stage hands part of the entertainment, and it worked.  In fact, it worked very well.
Christian Mast, Haley Johnson.
I have one small quibble with what is otherwise a very creative set.  Couldn't we get an actual, rather than an imaginary, door?  It was distracting to watch actors enter and exit through an imaginary door when all other set elements were well defined.
My disappointment here is principally with Lindsay-Abaire's script.  It attempts to be a profound look at life, how we make decisions that may or may not change our lives, and, in the end, what any of it all means.  Instead of profound, it comes off as a muddled self-indulgent trip through life crises with no redeeming or unifying message.  
The script is darkly funny, although audiences with recent experience with death, loss, and grief (I include myself in this group) may not be very amused.  Likewise, those with suboptimal relationships/marriages may find the plot too critical of their own bleak circumstances (I do not include myself in this group).
As a personal matter, I find suicide to be a poor subject for humor.  Lindsay-Abaire gives us abundant punch lines based Lois' suicidal arc.  If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you are probably not in the demographic for Wonder of the World.  If you haven't lost a loved one to suicide, you may still not find the subject amusing.  
It's never a good sign to me when I am accurately anticipating the next line in a script.  Wonder of the World presented several opportunities for me to correctly guess the next line, and I did.
I can't leave the script without mentioning "The Newlywed Game."  It's one of Lindsay-Abaire's plot devices.  It's cute, no question about that, but it also seemed a misplaced and lazy device.  Granted, I'm not a fan of the actual game show, but coming as it did near the penultimate scene, it just seemed odd.
Finally, the central plot device here is Kip's perversion.  I don't do spoilers, so there's no chance I would disclose the perversion in question.  I would say, however, that even if I regularly disclosed plot details in my posts, I would refuse to do so in this case.  Not because I don't want to spoil the story, but because the details are entirely too disgusting.  I expect Lindsay-Abaire gave Kip this unusual character flaw to make him funnier.  For me, the effect was not amusing; it was revolting.
Reviews here are subjective; there may be few who agree with me.  That's fine.  Theater is personal, and for me personally, this is not a show I can recommend to others.  I will admit that most of the audience was laughing and evidently enjoying the show.  I respect that, but I just couldn't join them in this case.

There is ample parking behind the theater.  Enter from either 12th Street or 11th Street.
This show closes on September 1, 2013.  
Photo Credits: Miner's Alley Playhouse
This show closes on September 1, 2013.  

Director:  Robert Kramer
Assistant Director:  Veronica Kramer
Set Design:  Rick Bernstein and Jonathan Scott-McKean
Sound Design:  Len Matheo and Jonathan Scott-McKean
Lighting Design:  Jonathan Scott-McKean
Costumes:  Ann Piano

Karla:  Debra CaamaƱo  
Glen:  Verl Hite 
Barbara, Helicopter Pilot, Waitresses, Janie:  Erica Johnson 
Cass Harris:  Haley Johnson  
Captain Mike:  Captain Mike 
Lois Coleman:  Lindsey Pierce 
Kip Harris:  Matthew Blood-Smyth 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Triumph of Love

Playwright:  Pierre de Marivaux (adaptation of Le Triomphe de l'Amour, 1732)
Book by:  James Magruder
Music by:  Jeffrey Stock
Lyrics by:  Susan Birkenhead
Venue:  Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant Avenue, Louisville, CO
Running Time:  2 hours, 15 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance:  Saturday, August 10, 2013

The original production of TheTriumph of Love (in 1732) was not well received by critics, who felt it was inappropriate for a princess to seduce three people of both sexes.  It closed after only six performances.  Times have changed greatly in the last 281 years.  
Center Stage's production of The Triumph of Love will pack the house for each of its performances, not because of the scandalous antics of Princess Leonide, but because of the marvelous performances by its young cast.  Translated and updated with music in 1997 for Broadway, the Center Stage version is an entertaining and engaging evening of theater.
Marivaux's original script was in the commedia dell'arte style, with exaggerated stock characters who often mocked the ruling class.  Those stylized characters still have the charm they had 1732.
Adapting a classic play for the Broadway stage often includes, as here, turning it into a musical.  The results can betray the playwright's original work for the sake of ticket sales.  The music in The Triumph of Love, however, is consistent with the original message, and at times, it's a toe tapping enhancement to that message.  This Center Stage production takes full advantage of the script, the music, and the array of talent at its disposal.
The closing number of the first act amply demonstrates the level of musical talent on the stage.  Teach Me Not to Love You features the entire company in complete harmony, singing together as one.  The effect is a marvelous musical climax to close the curtain on the first act.
The second act, however, is where you will find an abundance of musical highlights.  In fact, each and every piece in the second act is a musical gem.
Have a Little Faith gives Corine (Sierra Pilkington) a chance to display her musical chops with dramatic flair.  She nails it, setting the tone for a strong second act.
Pilkington joins Dimas (Matt O'Connor) and Harlequin (Michelle Herring) for a show stopping Henchmen Are Forgotten, complete with a brief reprise to enthusiastic applause.  Henchmen is a superb number done with punch and humor; it is THE musical highlight of the entire show.
The ballad Love Won't Take No For An Answer immediately follows Henchmen, blending the marvelous voices of Hermocrates (Matthew Good), Hesione (Ellen Thompson), and Agis (J. Tanner Kaler).  The three actors put on a voice workshop with Love Won't Take No For An Answer.  It's that good.
The cast of Triumph of Love, Center Stage productions.
With so much talent on the stage, it's very difficult to single anyone out.  However, Matt O'Connor (front row, left, in above photo) as Dimas deserves special mention.  Between his strong voice, his marvelous gestures and facial expressions, and his complete embrace of the gardener Dimas, O'Connor was on fire.  
I can't neglect to mention the costumes for The Triumph of Love.  They are spectacular.  I cannot remember ever seeing so much silk on stage.  Jeanie Balch and Brooke Hicks brought the early 1700s alive with the period look for each and every actor. 
Director Jeanie Balch had a special challenge at this performance.  Christopher Turner, the actor scheduled to play Harlequin, was ill and unable to perform.  There was no understudy for Harlequin, but in the best "the show must go on" tradition, Balch drafted Michelle Herring for the role.  Herring's normal role is Princess Leonide; she never played Harlequin before this performance.
Herring had to carry a script onstage to read her lines.  Instead of the script being a distraction, it added to the clown nature of her role.  Herring depended on her fellow actors for blocking and script cues, and they did not let her down.  She pulled off a difficult role on short notice and saved the performance.  I have seen a touring Broadway performance collapse when something unexpected occurred.  Herring, Balch, and the Center Stage company used the unexpected to enhance their performance, and for that they get my respect and recommendation.
My only quibble here is related to the script; the first act is too long, the exposition a little too complex.  That, of course, is no reflection on the production; the script must be used as written.  
If you are looking for good value for your entertainment dollar, see The Triumph of Love.  It's fun.  It's engaging.  It's very entertaining.  You will get double your money's worth. 
Center Stage Productions produces plays in the Boulder area using young local talent:  
"Centre Stage Theatre Company is the theatre place for Boulder and Louisville's kids, youth, and emerging artists. CSTC is dedicated to extending quality theatre to the Colorado community especially in Boulder County."  
The Triumph of Love cast is composed of college age veterans of the Center Stage emerging artists program.
This show closes on August 11, 2013.  I usually review shows early in the run, in the hopes of advising theater goers where their entertainment dollar might best be spent.  For a variety of reasons, I was unable to review Triumph of Love early in its run.  Apologies to those who might have purchased tickets after reading this review.  
Pre-show dining suggestions:  The Louisville Rex for burgers and sandwiches in an old movie house, or Lulu's Barbecue for, well, barbecue.

This show closes on August 11, 2013.  

Director, Set Design & Costume Design:  Jeanie Balch
Musical Direction:  Katie McClave
Set Design, Lighting Design & Technical Director:  Andrew Metzroth 
Keyboards:  Daniel Graeber
Choreographer:  Jeff Williams
Costume Assistant:  Brooke Hicks
Sound Design:  Nathan Lawrence and J. Tanner Kaler

Princess Leonide:  Eve Olson
Hesione:  Ellen Thompson
Agis (the true Prince of Sparta):  J. Tanner Kaler
Harlequin:  Michelle Herring (standing in for Christopher Turner)
Dimas:  Matt O'Connor
Hermocrates:  Matthew Good
Corine:  Sierra Pilkington