Wednesday, January 29, 2014

GIRLS ONLY: The Secret Comedy of Women

Playwrights:  Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein
Company:  Denver Center Attractions
Running Time:  1 hours, 45 minutes (includes 10 minute intermission to refill your drinks, ladies)
Date of Performance:  Saturday, January 25, 2014
It was with some apprehension that I sat in the second row at Girls Only; I was one of roughly a half dozen males in a room full of women.  Women with wine.  Women with beer.  Women with all varieties of alcoholic beverages.  It was a bit disconcerting, but fear not, guys.  Girls Only is a roaring good time for everyone in the audience, including the smattering of brave males.  
Linda Klein (Girl 2) and Barbara Gehring (Girl 1)
Girls Only blurs the line between theater and standup comedy, and is probably best considered in the standup camp.  "Girl 1" (Barbara Gehring) and "Girl 2" (Linda Klein) take you on a trip through their own personal experiences as girls and women.  Those experiences are evidently pretty universal; the women in the room were hooting, hollering and laughing from the opening lines of the show.  It's rare to hear peals of laughter spread from the front to the back of the room;  the Girls (1 and 2) make it happen repeatedly throughout the show.
Like most standup comedy, the Girls Only version is "interactive."  There is some audience participation involved.  Anyone near the front of the room is fair game.  The Girls venture out among the audience and WILL engage with anyone in their reach. Be a good's all good fun.
The set is marvelous; a 1950's (or is it 1960s?) girls bedroom, done up in pink, with all the special touches.  Bobby Sherman poster?  Check.  Stuffed animals?  Check.  Record player?  Check.  School pennants?  Check.  As you enter the theater, you will be immediately immersed in the Girls environment.  You will also immediately understand the personal and intimate nature of the show.
Gehring and Klein bring their experiences to the audience with genuine honesty, holding nothing back.  They are obviously "besties" on and offstage; the chemistry between the two is palpable.  They have a keen insight into womanhood, and their humor spotlights a lot of insecurities we all have growing up.  Most of us probably don't have fond memories of puberty, but it's a lot funnier when the Girls put their special spin on it.
The laughs are nonstop, but several skits are truly outstanding.  Look for the 5th grade "girls only" talk.  You know.  The one about "our bodies are changing."  It's a universal experience for girls, but guys were shut out of it in the 5th grade.  Here's their chance to peek behind the curtain.
The "Craft Corner" skit in the second act is nonstop belly laughs.  Male or female, you will not be able to keep a straight face when you're in the Craft Corner.  I laughed so hard my sides hurt.
Girls Only:  The Secret Comedy of Women is not a life changing, profound or provocative theater event.  It's a guilty pleasure of great entertainment.  It does exactly what it sets out to do:  entertain, amuse, and celebrate female bonding.  That's a noble goal, and these Girls definitely know how to accomplish it.
Here's the best news for the guys in the audience:  in my view there was NO male bashing on the agenda.  Guys can enjoy an hour and half or so of fun, none of which is at their expense.  In fact, if you guys want to get some real points for the birthday, anniversary, or Valentine's Day, take your girl/woman/spouse/partner/friend to Girls Only.  She'll have a great time, you'll get all the credit, and you can even have a bottle of Corona at the same time if you like.
This show closes on March 9, 2014.  
This show is recommended for guys/girls/women... ages 12 and up.  That's not a typo; I recommend it for the guys too.  But those 12 year olds should not be naive.
Pre or post show dining suggestion:  Sam's #3, 1500 Curtis Street, Denver CO.  It's just a few minutes walk to the theater, features a huge menu, a full bar, and happy hours from 2:00-6:00 PM and 9:00 to close.  I know.  It's not fancy.  It's good food, lots of it, and good prices.  
If you guys want to score the big points with your date, take her to Kevin Taylor's at the Opera House.  I hear it's also pretty good.

Co-Directors:  Barbara Gehring, Linda Klein, Luanne Nunes de Char
Set Design:  Lisa M. Orzolek
Lighting Design:  Charles R. MacLeod
Original Sound Design:  Scott Griess
Costume Design:  Bobby Kean
Assistant Director/Choreographer:  Claudia Carson

Girl 1:  Barbara Gehring

Girl 2:  Linda Klein

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Whipping Man

The Whipping Man

Playwright:  Matthew Lopez
Venue:  Curious Theatre,  1080 Acoma Street, Denver CO 80204.
Running Time:  2 hours, 5 minutes (includes 10 minute intermission)
Date of Performance:  Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's difficult to overstate the power of Matthew Lopez's Civil War drama The Whipping Man.  It's a disturbing, disorienting look at war, race, religion, and slavery that is remarkably relevant nearly 150 years after the Civil War ended.
It is equally difficult to overstate the power of Curious Theatre's current production of The Whipping Man.  Curious is known for its dynamic and edgy productions, but The Whipping Man is a cut above even Curious' consistently excellent offerings.  It's a provocative, perhaps life changing, experience for all who see it.  
The story covers a few days in April, 1865, at the once magnificent, but now looted, Richmond Virginia home of Caleb DeLeon (Sean Scrutchins).  It opens as Caleb, a confederate soldier comes home after surrendering to the Union forces at Appomattox.  The home is in ruins, as is Caleb.  His life is in jeopardy; he has an untreated bullet wound in his lower leg.  He is greeted and treated by Simon (Cajardo Lindsey), an elderly house slave who is now the only occupant of the dilapidated house.
Caleb and Simon are joined by John (Laurence Curry), a younger slave who has been on a looting binge.  There is no food in the house (forcing Simon to butcher and cook Caleb's dead horse), but John's looting provides enough whiskey to treat Caleb's gangrenous leg while simultaneously keeping him drunk enough to tolerate the pain.  
All three characters are Jewish, and Passover is imminent.  In a poignant irony, Simon prepares a Seder to celebrate the Passover, despite there being very little to celebrate. 
Cajardo Lindsey (Simon)
Watching Cajardo Lindsey's Simon is like time traveling.  Lindsey is a walking, talking house slave from the old South of 1865, and he is pitch perfect at every turn.  He masters the shuffling gait of the tired old slave.  He speaks with the sing song delivery of slavery's slang.  And he sings.  Acapella.  Beautifully.  Lindsey is a very accomplished actor at the top of his game.  The Whipping Man is abundant proof that he's in a very small but elite group of Denver's finest performers.
Sean Scrutchins (Caleb)

Sean Scrutchins delivers his second outstanding performance on the Curious stage.  His first, as Daniel Reeves in Bill Cain's 9 Circles, won him the Henry Award for Outstanding Lead Actor, and he will likely win more awards for The Whipping Man.  Like his role in 9 Circles, Caleb in The Whipping Man requires him to communicate the emotional and physical pain of war.  He does so with a disturbing degree of detail.  If you don't squirm in your seat watching him in the first act, check your pulse.  
Scrutchins opens the second act, reading Caleb's letters to his lover from the combat at Petersburg.  As he describes his miserable existence ("we live in trenches, in a putrid mix of water, excrement, and blood") you will squirm a second time in your seat. You may never experience a better description of the trauma of combat, and few could deliver that description better than Scrutchins.
Laurence Curry (John)
Laurence Curry (John) perfectly embodies the paradox of emancipation.  After a lifetime of slavery, how does one transition into freedom?  He asks the unexpected but obvious question:  "What am I supposed to do?"  The answer is not as simple as it would seem.
The direction team of Kate Folkins and Chip Walton keeps the action tight and the performances focused.  The sound design (Brian Freeland) is superb; the entire play takes place during thunderstorms.  Ever present rain and thunder enhance but don't disrupt the action on stage.  Markas Henry's set is magnificent, as are his authentic Civil War era costumes.  Simone Betkowski's makeup is central; she has carefully crafted some ugly physical wounds for her characters.
The Whipping Man is "must see" theater; it ranks among the very best work I have ever seen on a Denver stage.  It's one of those rare shows that will stay with you long after you've gone home. 

This show closes on February 15, 2014.  
This show is recommended for age 15 and up.  
Pre or post show dining suggestion:  The Hornet, 76 South Broadway, Denver CO.  It's just minutes from the theater, features daily specials, 8-10 craft draft beers, and happy hours from 3:00-6:00 PM and 11:00 to close.   
Photo Credits:  Curious Theatre.
Director:  Kate Folkins & Chip Walton
Set/Costume Design:  Markas Henry
Lighting Design:  Shannnon McKinney
Sound Design:  Brian Freeland
Makeup:  Simone Betkowski

Simon:  Cajardo Lindsey
John:  Laurence Curry

Caleb:  Sean Scrutchins

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Playwright:  Lyle Kessler
Company:  The Edge Theatre Company

Venue:  The Edge Theatre,  1560 Teller Street, Lakewood CO 80214.
Running Time:  2 hours, 15 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance:  Saturday, January 18, 2014

As Lyle Kessler's Orphans opens, Phillip (Christian Mast) eats a jar of Hellman's mayonnaise with a spoon, while watching cartoons in the squalor of his north Philadelphia row house.  My stomach churned a little with each bite.
Orphans is a tense, engaging tale of two brothers living together in miserable conditions, surviving on tuna and mayo sandwiches bought with the booty from petty crimes.  Think "Dead End Kids" as adults.  It's a day to day existence.  Treat leaves every day to pick pockets and mug anyone who looks like a suitable victim.  Phillip, who is developmentally disabled and stuck at a mental age in single digits, stays home and watches TV.  All day.
However, after Treat kidnaps Harold (Rick Yaconis) and holds him for ransom, things change.  Harold is a "force that will forever change their lives" (citation from The Edge).  You will have to figure out for yourself why Harold changes their lives so completely; I don't do spoilers.  However, keep in mind that Treat and Phillip are orphans, abandoned by their parents.
I'll get right to the point here.  Orphans at The Edge is a sensational drama brimming with outstanding performances.  
Jack Wefso (Treat), Christian Mast (Phillip), Rick Yaconis (Harold)
Christian Mast (Phillip) is locked in.  He performs prior to the show, as the audience is seated.  He doesn't say much; he just goes about Phillip's business as we wait for the show to begin.  With a spoon, a jar of mayonnaise, and with cartoons on the TV, he wanders around, watches the tube, or talks to himself.  Mast puts on a clinic for every actor on how to create a character with minimal dialog.  We already know Phillip well when the play begins.
Mast has totally mastered Phillip.  He's an adult, but with a child's emotional and intellectual capabilities.  Mast delivers every line, every gesture, every facial expression in that adult/child's world for nearly three hours.  His performance is one of those rare and unforgettable experiences, and, standing alone, is worth the price of admission.
Jack Wefso (Treat) brings the pain of loss, abandonment, and desperation to his character.  He's insecure to a fault, and angry enough to erupt into violence at the drop of a hat.  Wefso ranges from a hardened thug to a sobbing, crestfallen "orphan" in the last scene.  Treat finally realizes that he has been abandoned twice by his father, and his pain is unbearable.  Wefso skillfully morphs his character from unlikeable to tragic.
Rick Yaconis as Harold is the father figure for Treat and Phillip.  He brings peace to the chaos of their lives, and tries (with limited success) to take the violence out of Treat's personality.  All three performers (Mast, Wefso, and Yaconis) feed off each other, with the ensemble being greater than the sum of its individual actors. 
Sound design here (Rick Reid) merits special attention.  A TV plays during much of the first act, but the audience can't see the screen.  It was displaying "snow," not programming.  Reid designed the TV audio to give the listener the impression it was coming from the onstage TV.  In addition to the convincing TV sound, Reid inserted occasional musical clips in the background that perfectly reflected the time and place of the script.
The program describes Orphans as a "dark comedy."  Director Robert Kramer gets the laughs, but wisely focuses on the drama.  Kramer has an outstanding cast at the top of their game, and he capitalizes on their talent at every turn.  
Orphans is must see theater.  It's a script, a performance, and a production you will not soon forget.

This show closes on February 9, 2014.  
This show is recommended for age 17 and up.  
Pre or post show dining suggestions:  GB's Fish & Chips, 2175 Sheridan Boulevard, Edgewater CO.   Authentic fish and chips and a local favorite.  The Sheridan location is close to the theater (15 minutes, weather/traffic permitting) and features bangers, Shepherd's Pie, and sausage rolls in addition to the fish fry.  Indoor seating is a picnic table to share with your fellow diners.  (NOTE to Orphans fans:  Starkist tuna and Hellman's mayonnaise sandwiches are NOT on the menu.)
Photo Credits:  The Edge Theatre.

Director:  Robert Kramer
Set Design:  Justin Lane
Lighting Design:  Kevin Taylor
Sound Design:  Rick Reid
Costume Design:  Caroline Smith

Treat:  Jack Wefso
Phillip:  Christian Mast

Harold:  Rick Yaconis

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gidion's Knot

Playwright:  Johnna Adams

VenueThe Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder CO, 80302.
Running Time:  70 minutes (no intermission)
Date of Performance:  Saturday, January 11, 2014, 2:00 PM.
WARNINGGidion's Knot contains disturbing situations, including teen bullying and graphic but verbal violence.  
It is difficult to write a review of Gidion's Knot without giving away too much of the plot.  I don't do spoilers, so I will be deliberately vague about the details.  
The general arc of the play involves a parent-teacher conference for Gidion.  Gidion's mother, Corryn Fell, meets with Gidion's teacher, Heather Clark, at Clark's request.  Gidion is a victim of bullying, and Clark suspended Gidion for writing a detailed, gruesome description of retribution against his tormenters.
Gidion's manifesto is beyond disturbing; it is revolting.  Still, Gidion's mother is very agitated that Clark used the document to suspend her son.  The entire play takes place in Clark's classroom, as the mother and teacher slowly reveal Gidion's problems dealing with his classmates and teachers.
Bullying and school violence are rich, relevant and important topics for any Colorado stage.  Here, however, playwright Johnna Adams has squandered all opportunities to inform or enlighten her audience.  Although the script was a finalist for the Steinberg 2012 New Play of The Year Award, I found it empty and frustrating.
In what seems an odd and inexplicable twist, the script portrays Gidion's mother as a bully herself.  Her conduct meets the legal description of kidnapping (detaining a person, here, Clark, against her will).  The irony that the mother of the bullied victim is a bully herself is difficult to accept.
Stories, and plays, often have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Without a coherent end, nothing is resolved.  That, in a nutshell, is the problem with Adam's script.  Nothing is resolved, no lesson is learned, and no one will be enlightened by experiencing Gidion's Knot.  Rather, the playwright seems satisfied to repel and disgust the audience.  We are left unable to see how the school, the teacher, the mother, or Gidion himself could have changed the outcome.
It's a shame.  The opportunity was there; Adams could have given us insight and inspiration on an important topic.  She chose not to do so.

Emily K. Harrison & Tammy L. Meneghini
The performances by both actresses (Emily K. Harrison as Heather Clark and Tammy L. Meneghini as Corryn Fell) were restrained; Harrison's fear was a constant subtext, Meneghini's anger was barely controlled.  Unfortunately, the script did not permit either's emotions to come to the surface.  Both are very capable actors who could bring a huge emotional impact to the subject matter.  It would have been a better script had one or the other, or both, been given that opportunity.
Early in the performance, Wendy Franz's direction repeatedly put Meneghini's back to the audience, making her lines difficult to hear.  What seemed to be a long pause in the script, as Harrison left the stage to find the Principal, slowed the pace while the audience waited for the play to continue.  The production could use some tweaking to improve the audience experience. 
Gidion's Knot is a script that sets off strong emotions but does nothing constructive with those emotions.  I was left with a sense of being emotionally toyed with, and I didn't appreciate it.  
From Columbine to Arapahoe High Schools, Coloradans know the consequences of uncontrolled emotional outbursts in schools.  It's not a subject we take lightly.  If going to the theater will take us into that very dark place, the experience should make us smarter, better, and engaged in solutions to violence in schools.  Gidion's Knot, unfortunately, missed that opportunity.

This show closes on January 18, 2014.  
This show is NOT appropriate for young children.  Discretion is HIGHLY advisable for teenage children. 
Pre or post show dining suggestions:  Beaujo's Pizza, a Colorado original and a local favorite.  The Boulder location, at 2690 Baseline, is close to the theater and features 10-12 craft brewed beers on draft.  Happy Hour specials include both appetizers and beverages.

Director:  Wendy Franz
Sound/Set Design:  Wendy Franz
Lighting Design:  Jess Buttery
Costume Design:  Wendy Franz, Emily K. Harrison, & Tammy L. Meneghini

Heather Clark:  Emily K. Harrison

Corryn Fell:  Tammy L. Meneghini

Tuesday, January 14, 2014



which renders good for bad, blessings for curses.

William Shakespeare, Richard III (c. 1591), Act I, scene 2, line 68.

Want to do a world of good for someone you may know?  Want to have a bang up good time in the process?


It’s a rare person who never needed a helping hand at some time.  Those working in the Denver theater community do it more for the passion than the paycheck.  Most have day jobs with little or no health insurance, and they are highly vulnerable to the unpredictable illness or injury that can afflict any of us.

Over the years, actors, directors, producers, and companies have passed the hat when someone needed immediate financial or emotional assistance.  However, the hat passing was informal and impromptu.  Those days are over.

The Denver Actors Fund (DAF) was established in the summer of 2013, part of an effort of CultureWest to create a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in great and sudden medical need.  The inaugural event was a fundraiser that attracted about 100 people.  In the best dramatic fashion, partygoers donated more than $1,200.00 to the fund that night. 

According to Chris Boeckx, President of the DAF Board of Directors, a lot of progress has been made since that initial event.  “We have incorporated and filed as an IRS non-profit group.  We have established bylaws to control donations and distributions, and we have established criteria for disbursements, along with an application process for those needing assistance.”

While Chris expects financial assistance to be the biggest need for DAF, he expects to use volunteers to meet other needs.  DAF plans to offer services such as:

·      Meal preparation/delivery
·      Construction/remodeling to improve accessibility
·      Assistance with errands
·      Domestic assistance (housekeeping, laundry, etc.)
·      Company/companionship

DAF assistance is not limited to actors; according to Boeckx, “actors, directors, musicians, ticket takers, carpenters, seamstresses” and anyone else involved in any way in a production in the last five years is eligible.

So…how is it working?  Ask Becky Toma, one of the first beneficiaries of the Denver Actors Fund. 

Becky has been a props designer and P.R. freelancer for clients including schools and local theatre companies including Littleton Town Hall Arts Center, Phamaly Theatre Company, the Mizel Center and Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret.  Becky fell and fractured her knee on November 15, and she needed a wheelchair.  She has health insurance, but with a very high deductible.  The DAF wrote her a check for $294.06 to cover renting a wheelchair until she can get back on her feet.  Becky was very grateful:  Any assistance I receive from the Denver Actors Fund is greatly appreciated. When I’m back working again, I hope to contribute back to the Fund!”

Maggie Stillman, another early beneficiary of DAF, had these words of thanks:
“Hello to this wonderful community. . . . The grant I received from the DAF went towards my deductible and paid for my hospital co-pay. My surgeon spoke with my family while I was in recovery and stressed that the surgery could not have waited . . . . Every dollar I received helped my quality of life to improve exponentially (if not literally saving it). Life is the most beautiful gift that we can ever give. Thanks for improving mine.”

Shakespeare is right; we can all help change some curses to blessings if we care enough.  The DAF is an excellent way for all theater fans, patrons, and enthusiasts to give back to the local talent that entertains, enlightens, provokes and inspires us regularly from their stages.

If you would like more information, check out DAF on Facebook here. 
If you’d like to make a tax deductible donation, you can take care of that here.  If you’re eligible for and need assistance, you can find a downloadable application form on this web page (scroll down).  If you’d like some cool sportswear or other gear with the DAF logo, find it in the online DAF store here.

Any and all donations are greatly appreciated.

DAF logo and photos of Becky Toma & Maggie Stillman used with permission.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bill's Best of 2013: A Look Back...

Bill’s Best of 2013.

I had hoped to see 50 plays this year, but things don't always go as planned.  My full time job until May 6, 2013 was caregiver to my wife Linda.  Her passing turned things upside down, and blogging theater performances moved down on the list of my priorities.
In November, I moved to Colorado Springs to be with a long time friend (of both Linda and I) and future spouse, Roxie Fisher.  That made for two moves (1 in Denver, 1 Denver to Colorado Springs) in 2013.  The disruption has been substantial.  I'm not complaining, just explaining.  I saw 30 performances in spite of the chaos, but I fell well short of my goal of 50.
As a result, please understand that my thoughts below are specific to those 30 performances, and not a reflection of Colorado Theater as a whole.  There are many shows I wish I had seen but couldn't, and nothing here should detract from the bounty of talent working onstage and behind the scenes all over Colorado.
NOTE:  A full 10% of the shows I saw (Spamalot, Chicago, and War Horse) were touring Broadway productions.  My look back at 2013 does not compare touring professional productions with the local Colorado companies.  Had I done so, however, two of the three professional productions would have fallen well short of my criteria for best performances of 2013.  
That's right.  Colorado theater is THAT good.
So here it is…”Bill’s Best of 2013.”

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Best Dramas

There are two outstanding 2013 drama productions that I’ll never forget.  They both brought Colorado theater to a higher level, and for that, they are my picks for the Best Dramas of 2013.

1.  “Ghost-Writer.”  The Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company.

From start to finish, "Ghost-Writer" was a polished, professional, engaging theater experience.  Laura Norman owned her role as typist Myra Babbage.  Her nuanced performance, including gestures, facial expressions, and actually banging away at an ancient keyboard, put the exclamation point on her complex relationship with novelist Franklin Woolsey (Jim Hunt).  (Punctuation pun intended.)
Jim Hunt's role included long periods of standing onstage in stony silence as he peered and pondered while composing his novel.  Hunt was more of a statue than a character for a good portion of the performance.  The physical challenge for him was difficult; he handled it flawlessly.
Director Josh Hartwell lovingly nurtured the romantic relationship between Woolsey and Babbage with frequent pauses, creating time and space for the thoughts going through his character's minds.  In a crucial scene, Babbage teaches Woolsey to dance.  Hartwell blocks them with Babbage's right hand in Woolsey's left, and Woolsey's right hand on the small of Babbage's back.  In a delicious moment, Hartwell has Babbage move Woolsey's hand lower, to a point just below her waist.  It's a physical and beautiful demonstration of Babbage's unspoken desire for Woolsey.
If you missed Ghost-Writer, you missed one of the very best productions of 2013.
2.  “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”  The Edge Theatre.

The Edge Theatre has had a marvelous season, and "Tiger" is at the top of my list for 2013.  
Rajiv Joseph's script is based on real events in Baghdad after the "shock and awe" pummeling in the spring of 2003.  Joseph exposes the moral, ethical and religious dilemmas that all wars create.  The "Tiger" script is weighty, powerful, and provocative. 
An excellent script, however, in lesser hands, could have come out differently.  The Edge Theatre's cast and crew are more than equal to the task, bringing Joseph's script to life on a tiny stage in a small room.  Director Richard Cowden staged the action in the round, bringing the audience into the room with the characters.
Paul Page (as THE tiger), needs no introduction.  He's an accomplished local actor with a dazzling resume.  However, his role here is a standout in a career full of brilliant performances.  His monologue at the beginning of the second act was a show stopper.
"Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" reminds us why we love theater.  It forces us at times to look at ourselves in the mirror and see our flaws.  

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Best Musical

Always...Patsy Cline.”  Starkey Theatrix, Parker Arts, Culture, & Events Center.

I'm no fan of country music, but I love a great musical.  "Patsy Cline" is such a musical. 
Megan Van De Hey has the chops, both singing and acting, to BE Patsy Cline on the Parker stage.  She hits every note, every dance move, and every nuance she needs to become Cline for 2 hours.  I saw this show with a Patsy Cline fan, and she was amazed.  She said it was like watching the real Patsy.
Carla Kaiser Kotrc (Louise Seger) was perfect as Cline's fan and friend.  The chemistry was as real as Cline's real life friendship with Seger.
Everything worked here; the costumes, the sets, and the live music were as professional as any touring Broadway production.  
I had low expectations for a bio/musical with country music.  "Patsy Cline" completely obliterated those low expectations.  I'd love to see "Patsy Cline" come back for an encore in 2014.  I know a lot of people I'd like to take along with me to the revival.

Honorable Mentions:  

 “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

The Full Monty,” Boulder’s Dinner Theatre.

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Best Comedy

Scapin.”  Lake Dillon Theatre.

LOL:  Laugh out loud funny.  
Scapin:  Laugh out loud funny.
Lake Dillon Theatre scored a hit with "Scapin," and they rightly deserve enormous credit for staging a 350 year old script on a small stage with brilliant costumes, actors with an exquisite sense of comedic timing, and frantically paced direction.  Every line of dialogue works, every joke is hilarious, and every pratfall is convincing.  
I left the theater holding my sides...they hurt that much from laughing.  

Honorable Mention:  
Sylvia,” Firehouse/Spotlight Theatre Companies.

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Most Creative Staging

Two productions this year stood out as completely off the charts for the way they were staged.  Both provided imaginative, creative, and functional sets to enhance the script and the audience experience.

"Every Man (On the Bus)."  Theatreworks, Colorado Springs.

Creative staging might be the wrong term for "Everyman."  There was no stage in the traditional sense; the entire play takes place on a city bus as it travels to different bus stops in Colorado Springs.  
Producing a play on a moving bus involves a lot of technical problems; the sound design is difficult, the audience is limited to the number of seats on the bus, and the actors work in a tiny space that's the equivalent of about half of a bowling lane.  So why bother staging the play on a bus?
The bus was a vehicle for the audience, but also for the message.  
As the characters negotiate the difficult passage at the final accounting of their lives, we in the audience are also traveling through space and time towards our own final days.  The bus ride is a perfect metaphor for the journey the actors were taking, and for some of my own life events in 2013.

"Metamorphoses."  Aurora Fox Theatre.

The set for "Metamorphoses" includes a large pool of water in the middle of a two story stage.  Every actor performs on stage, in the pool, and at times, under the water.  
The time, effort, and resources that went into staging "Metamorphoses" was far beyond the average, making this production one my Best of 2013.  

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Best Actor
Paul Page “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”  The Edge Theatre.
Paul Page put his heart and soul into this role, and it showed.  
Actors portraying animals have a lot of physical challenges; Page gave his Tiger all the cat like characteristics and nuances we would expect from an actor of his caliber.  
His opening scene in the second act is unforgettable.  Page will go on to other roles, and he will do them all justice.  That said, though, "Tiger" is the best work I have seen from him.  I'm anxious to see what he does next, but he has set the bar extremely high with "Tiger."

Honorable Mention:  
James O'Hagan Murphy, “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy.”  Vintage Theatre.

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Best Supporting Actor

Joe Von Bokern, "Billy Bibbitt."  "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," The Edge Theatre
Joe Von Bokern is the stuttering, crazy Billy Bibbit in the mental ward full of crazies, and he stands alone in his personal craziness. 
He is convincing enough to bring tears to your eyes, and his performance earns an award for supporting an excellent cast in a powerful production.

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Best Actress

Megan Van De Hey, “Always, Patsy Cline...”  Starkey Theatrix, Parker Arts, Culture, & Events Center.

Megan Van De Hey is a gifted actress with a wonderful singing voice.  She rocked the stage as Patsy Cline like no other actress I've seen this year.  For that she gets a standing ovation and Bill's Best Actress of 2013.
Honorable Mention:  

Laura Norman, “Ghost-Writer.”  Boulder Ensemble Theater Company.

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Best Supporting Actress

Carla Kaiser Kotrc, "Always...Patsy Cline."  Starkey Theatrix, Parker Arts, Culture, & Events Center.
Supporting actress is somewhat misleading; Carla Kaiser Kotrc is actually a co-star in "Always...Patsy Cline."  She is every bit the equal of Patsy Cline/Megan Van De Hey onstage.  Her chemistry with Van De Hey is palpable. 

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Best Ensemble Cast

 “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” The Edge Theatre Company.,” The Edge Theatre Company.  
Paul Page, Nathan Bock, Kevin Lowry, Sam Gilstrap, Yasmin Sweets, Miranda Vargas, Alberto Ocampo

The strongest ensemble I've seen this year, each member of the "Tiger" cast contributed to a performance that soared.  "Ensemble" is the French word for "together."  "Together" is a fitting description for this fine collection of acting talent.

Honorable MentionDark Wood,” Denver’s Dangerous Theatre.  

Patrick Call, Ben Palayo, Brainard Starling.
It takes courage to appear nude on stage; the "Dark Wood" cast appeared nude for the entire performance.  Costumes can enhance performances; nudity exposes any and all flaws.  This ensemble handled the challenge marvelously.  The shock wore off within minutes, and these actors delivered a thought provoking performance that challenged the audience.  

Bill’s Best of 2013:  Best Director.

John Moore,  "Always...Patsy Cline."  Starkey Theatrix, Parker Arts, Culture, & Events Center.

Mr. Moore is more better known as the critic rather than the director.  Everyone knows he's a marvelous critic.  It turns out he's an excellent director as well.
Staging "Patsy Cline" is no small feat.  Moore made it all happen, and as I've mentioned above, in a manner that compares very favorably with a professional Broadway production.  Casting both Megan Van De Hey and Carla Kaiser Kotrc shows Moore's eye for talent.  He deftly managed the onstage friendship between the two so well that it's hard to imagine they aren't BFFs offstage.  Moore achieved excellence in all of his tasks... the lighting, the sound, the sets, the costumes and the talent were superb.
John Moore may make me a country music fan yet, but I'm already a fan of his direction.

Honorable Mention:  
Josh Hartwell, “Ghost-Writer.”  Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company.

Bill's Best of 2013...and beyond.  Lifetime Achievement Award.

Linda Wheeler.  

Actress.  Director.  Producer. Lifelong Theater Fan.  Daughter.  Sister.  Friend.  Wife.  Teacher.  Lover.  Inspiration.

I can't leave 2013 behind without recognizing Linda's role in theater, in my life, and in the community.  She touched many lives, and she is greatly missed by all who knew her.

Her Bachelor's degree was in Theater; her love was the stage; she could do any onstage or backstage role.  She loved being a Henry Award Judge for the Colorado Theater Guild.  To her, it was the best possible gig... it was like an "all you can eat" theater buffet.

Those who knew Linda will tell you that she lived life to the fullest, not wasting a single day of her 58 years, 1 month, and 22 days.  For several years, she proudly drove around Colorado with her personalized license plate "CRPE DM."  She seized every day like it was her last, and no matter how sick she was, she never missed an opportunity to support others who needed her.

I've learned the lessons Linda taught me.  I will live a full, rich, and rewarding life every single day.  

And for that, she gets my "Lifetime" Achievement Award. 


That photo is courtesy of Linda Rae Leola Wheeler (nee Fugere, AKA Linda Ball).