Thursday, October 26, 2017

THE GAME IS AFOOT AT FAC WITH KEN LUDWIG'S BASKERVILLE

There is a master class in hilarity, invention, and pure joy going on at the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College  right now, and it is called Ken Ludwig's Baskerville. The show is a tour-de-force of farce, satire, homage, performed with an intense amount of ability and talent by both cast and crew, with a team of designers and direction as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes himself.

The play is a comedy in the vein of The 39 Steps, with five actors portraying around 40 roles and giving a comedic version of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story "The Hound of the Baskervilles. The action of the play takes us all over both London, Devonshire and the Moors, with what feels like more scenes than some films. The tone is definitely madcap- a joyous insouciance that makes you happy to be alive, and like you are part of something unique as you watch it. The plot stays true to the original source, and I am fairly certain that Holmes's purists will enjoy it. I know my wife, who has read all of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories several times over, loved the show just as much as I did.

The cast, to a one, is superb. As Sherlock Holmes, Christopher Joel Onken is outstanding. Onken captures the character perfectly, showcasing both the ridiculousness and charisma that makes Holmes Holmes. As the trusted sidekick Doctor Watson, Colin Alexander is outstanding. Together, they are the straight men to a cavalcade of characters, played with inspiration and gleeful madness by Andrew Wilkes, Jordan Mathews, and Rebecca Myers. These three actors play about ten characters a pieced, sometimes changing character in a matter of seconds. They are each formidable talents, who I suspect must secretly be magicians of some sort to be able to pull off all the tricks they do.

The production is directed by the great Nathan Halvorson, who knows how to do comedy, farce, and pretty much any style of theatre there is, about as good as anyone I know of. The action is blindingly fast, always creative, and a marvel to behold. The set, by Erick D. Diaz, is brilliant- evocative of so many familiar places- Holme's study, the Moors, the typical English Manor, etc. And yet, within all these locations, there are surprise elements, clever use of minimal pieces, and again a sense of joy and wonder, you see each setting with new eyes. Same can be said for the lush lighting by Jennifer Reiser, which is scary when it needs to be scary, warm when it needs to be warm, and always supporting the mood and action of the moment. The many props, which at times literally fly across the stage, are by Emma Dean, and are wonderful. The costumes, designed by Noelle Raffy, are gorgeous and perfect. Hair and make-up by Jonathan Eberhardt, which must be insane to do when you have three actors playing over 35 roles, is brilliant. Quick changes abound in this show, and to a one, each was done perfectly, thanks to the outstanding costumes and hair and make-up designs.

As you may have noticed, I think this show was fantastic. Performances continue through October 29. Don't be a fool- get your tickets and go. You won't be sorry!

For more information of the show, click HERE.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I AM I, DON QUIXOTE

When I was fourteen years old, I saw a show that changed my life. It was called Man of La Mancha, and it was magic and tragic and transporting. I am not sure exactly what all the factors were that made me decide to pursue a career in theatre, but that production was a huge part of that decision. So it was with great excitement and anticipation that I headed to Colorado Springs to see the Fine Arts Center's current production. I demand perfection when it comes to Man of La Mancha, and have come to expect perfection when going to the FAC. I am happy to report, I got what I wanted.

This show is a treat, from start to finish, at once hard-hitting in its portrayal of a prison during the Spanish Inquisition while at the same time whimsical and charming in the telling of Don Quixote. This is a play about hope in the face of absolute despair, of finding the courage to be true to your ideals, regardless of your situation- a fitting theme for the world we find ourselves in of late. I don't want to bother you with going over the plot. Suffice to say, it is a play-within-a-play where Cervantes finds himself thrown into jail during the Inquisition and while awaiting judgement, is given a kangaroo court trial by his fellow inmates. For his defense, Cervantes offers up his great tale of Don Quixote, famed dreamer and tilter of windmills. As the story unfolds, the inmates get swept up into the tale, taking on various roles as needed. If you want the basic plot of the show, go HERE.

The direction by Scott RC Levy, is tight, imaginative, and muscular. Levy keeps the show, which has no intermission, moving at a break-neck pace which serves the story well. He also elicits from his cast consistently strong performances, full of passion, comedy, and sorrow. I suppose it is possible for Levy to do a bad job- but I've yet to see that happen. The set, by Christopher L. Sheley, is gorgeous, as are the costumes by Sydney Gallas and lights by Holly Anne Rawls. The choreography by Mary Ripper Baker is subtle, evocative, and exciting. And the band, under the musical direction of Sharon Skidgel, is superb.

The cast is amazing. as Cervantes/Don Quixote, Stephen Day is the perfect blend of sublime hope, delusion, and daring. He made me laugh and cry in equal measure. As Sancho, Quixote's trusted sidekick, Sammie Joe Kinnett is hilarious, but never over the top- keeping the character grounded and believable and a joy to behold. And Aldonza/Dulcinea, Gina Naomi Baez is fanatastic-  she makes the character sexy, dangerous, and vulnerable as we watch her journey from hardened bar wench to dignified woman. There is not a weak link in this cast.

Man of La Mancha plays Thursdays thru Sundays until June 18. I strongly urge you to go. And, when you do, look around in the audience after the show.  I am sure that there will be more than one young person in the audience who's life will be changed for the better- look for them, look for the way a piece of theatre can inspire them.

For more info on the show, and how to get tickets, click HERE.

Monday, January 23, 2017

RESOLVED TO SELF EVIDENT TRUTHS

What's that saying about opinions and how everyone has one? Well, I think New Year's resolutions are like that too- we all have at least one. Most of us have many, and a lot of them are perennial favorites. I will lose weight. I will contact all those friends who have been lost to time and tide. I will blog more often. Yes, I will blog more often. Every damned day. Maybe twice daily. I will get that raise. I will speak from my heart. I will solve all my problems. I will solve all the world's problems. I will finish watching all the movies and series on my Netflix list. Same for Hulu and Amazon. I will, I will, I will.

And why not? We must have ambitions, dreams, goals. Right?

Well, this year, I felt the need for better resolutions. This was a direct result of the improbable, illogical, and insane election of the Great Orange Monkeyman from Queens as our President. First off, he lost the popular vote by almost three million. Second, he publicly made fun of a man with handicaps- which is what I believe is called a "dick move". Third, this bully either doesn't believe in global warming, which makes him a moron, or doesn't give a shit about it, which makes him an asshole.

Fourth- he objectifies women, treats them with contempt and what seems like anger. Like toys who he can "grab by the pussy". Again, dick move.

What is his problem? My mother was a woman. My wife is a woman. Over half the world population is made of women. And he treats them like shit. He really does.

So I resolved to be more actively involved in what is happening in my community, my country, and my world.

First big step- I went to the Women's March in D.C. with my wife Lisa this past week end.

And it was beautiful, inspiring, magic, crazy- the list of adjectives needed to described this monumental event is far too long to put on this page. I have been to a lot of pretty big events in my life. I was in Santa Barbara during the Rodney King riots. I lived in NYC during 9/11, the black out of 2002, and  the RNC of 2004. I saw Obama speak in Denver in a crowd whose estimated size was over a million. And Saturday, I took part in the largest demonstration in the history of our nation.

We met so many kind, funny, concerned citizens from all over the country. A woman from Florida, a pair of ladies from Boston. A punk rock violinist from Minneapolis. Everywhere we have been, from Friday to today, the atmosphere has been both electrified but kind- like that perfect party where everyone is having a great time, nobody wants to leave, and all the music they play makes you want to dance.

And the Pussy Hats. All over the place. Pink, Purple, Orange. Fuzzy and freaky, some with whiskers, some with ears. All of them made by hand. Lisa made three: one for her son Ryan, one for me, and one for herself. They are the three coolest hats ever made. I wore mine with pride, and plan to continue to wear it for at least the next four years.

We stayed at an Air B&B near 14th Street and S street. On the day of the march, we decided to walk, as the Metro was full to bursting. Walking was a great choice. As we made our way towards the Mall, more and more people filled the streets- a sea of women, many in pussy hats, leading us forward. The walk took over half an hour, and by the time we got to the Mall, it was a full on crowd- although the word "crowd" does not suffice. It felt like when you were in high school and went to one of those super concerts where five bands played. Everyone excited, distant roars of the already gigantic event echoing through the streets. Everywhere you look, people who are smiling- at each other and at you. So much love and hope and determination.

When we got to the mall, I ran into this woman. She was 94, and had a sign on her shirt proclaiming her age, and her religion, which was Quaker. I told her my mother was a Quaker too, and she looked me right in the eye, and asked me if my mother raised me well. Something about that hit me right in the gut. I don't know why, but it made me have to try very hard not to cry.

We moved on. We raised our voices in joy, and also in anger. We flipped the bird at the new hotel owned by the Orange Monkeyman when we marched past it later in the day. We took part in something greater than ourselves.

And this is just the beginning. There will be more marches. More protest. More change. People are fired up, ready to go.

More to come. I am resolved.

NEVERLAND STAY WITH ME

Long ago and far away in a kingdom by the sea, I was a pirate in the service of Captain James Hook. It was glorious. I had many tattoos, a h...