Showing posts with label Philip Doyle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philip Doyle. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Theatre Review: The House of Blue Leaves is a Black Comedy Every Theatre Fan Should See

By Philip Doyle

My appreciation for all things theatre runs deep. While I openly gush on about my love of musicals, sometimes I yearn for a play. Well, actually I'm always up for a play. A piece of thoughtful, well crafted playwriting that draws me in fulfills a creative space in my soul that a musical, television show, or summer blockbuster cannot. The Edge Theatre Company's The House of Blue Leaves satisfied my creative hunger.

Fans of live theatre in Colorado should thank their lucky stars for the Edge Theatre. While I am consistently impressed with their level of acting and directing talent, what impresses me the most are the plays they bring to their stage. Upcoming shows include the Denver and regional premiere of Rajiv Joseph's inspired The Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo, followed by the Tennessee Williams' classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. They finish up their current season with Gifted, which is brand spanking new, and the winner of the 2012 On The Edge Festival of New Plays. Artistic Director Rick Yaconis, and everyone at The Edge have earned my enthusiastic applause for serving up plays that have yet to be seen, and classics that deserve to be seen by new generations of theatre goers.

John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves won the 1971 Drama Critics Circle award and the Obie Award for Best American Play. It is a black comedy that every patron of live theatre should see. Weaving intermittent dramatic moments with over the top presentational farce, characters breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging the audience's presence, and a story line that includes guest appearances from a trio of nuns in full habit, and Hollywood big shots, Blue Leaves teeters on the brink of schizophrenic chaos. In this production director Scott Bellot somehow guides these desperate elements together to a purposeful and poignant end.

The House of Blue Leaves takes place on the day the Pope is visiting New York City. The action is set in the Queens apartment of Artie Shaugnessy, a zookeeper and aspiring (and delusional) songwriter. He has big dreams, including getting hitched with his over-the-top neighbor/ mistress, Bunny, who is working her female wiles to within an inch of her life. But Artie is still married, and his wife, Bananas is a woman who is mentally broken to a point of desperate hopelessness. Artie also has a son, Ronnie, an army soldier who is hell bent on killing the Pope.

Now part of the fun of Blue Leaves is the metaphorical roller coaster ride that the audience takes. It is amusing and witty, and it is painful and cruel. There are plot twists and character cameos that are best left not described. But that is what makes this play worth seeing.

Blue Leaves has the kind of characters that have actors chomping at the bit to play. Tom Auclair has the daunting task of playing Artie. Auclair has the ability to be a lovable jerk. That is an enviable skill for any actor to possess. (Plus anyone who has the chutzpah to sit down at a piano and atonally knock out a few lounge songs, throwing a playful glance at the audience, is a hero in my book.)

Bunny is played by Kelly Uhlenhopp, and she is a forced to be reckoned with. She gives Bunny a powerful presence, and elevates the part to a new level. From the moment she walks onto the stage, Uhlenhopp grabs the audience's focus with dogged determination.

The part of Bananas is a tricky one. Some truly great actresses, including Katherine Helmond, Swoosie Kurtz, and Edie Falco, have given the role depth and a sympathetic soul. In this production Missy Moore sustains a level of insanity that at times exquisitely exposes the characters longing for connection. As Bananas, Moore wanders and floats like a ghost amidst chaos on stage, appearing only when she wants to.

The Edge Theatre continues to impress. I was delighted to check out their new theatre location. But if "the plays the thing," it's the productions that The Edge is offering that makes this company a gem.

Friday, June 28, 2013

MileHighGayGuys Discuss DOMA and Marriage Equality: Philip Doyle

"As a lad I was told how marriage worked. It was a romantic, Disneyesque, and daunting concept …

Somewhere, out there, in this big beautiful world, there is one person, just one, who is my perfect match. 

Well, holy smack!” I thought, “My mate is probably somewhere in Mexico or Indonesia or who knows where!?” Plus at that early age I knew I was gay, and since marriage was not legal for gays in the USA my husband most likely was hiding in some closet hundreds of miles away. Jose, Gustavo, or whatever his name is, will never come “salir del armario” and he will never travel to the States to wine and dine my Irish ass. Dayum!

Now things have changed. With the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor for equal rights, my quest for “the one” may be a little bit easier. And since I’m just a mouse-click away, I don’t have to trek the seven continents to hunt him down. Maybe he’s on Facebook, or maybe he reads MileHighGayGuy? Hmm…

What I do know is change is coming. It’s blowing in the wind and it is pissing off the fundamentalist right. Just like a bratty child being sent to time out, the Palins, Bachmens, Perrys, and guys named Jeb, will NOT go quietly. I expect their vitriolic, (and kind of embarrassing) rants will get even worse. 

At this moment, the wolves, or in this case the Fox’s, are prepping for a fight. We will hear their bigoted reinterpretations of the bible. We will avoid Rush Limbaugh’s bilious voice, decrying the fall of society, his fear-inducing pursed lips spewing icky acidic saliva, peppering the foam ball of his microphone with infectious hate.

But here is what the gay community has going for it: Ourselves.

We have Colorado State Senator Pat Steadman, who champions equality for the LGBT community, women’s rights, sex education, and HIV prevention.

Activists have given us a voice when we were dying. Peter Staley, Larry Kramer, and countless others have shown us how to ACT UP.  

Harvey Milk was killed for believing in us, and his nephew Stuart Milk continues to give us a voice.

In our ranks we have Dan Choi, a West Point graduate, American infantry officer, and gay rights activist, who put a face on the fight against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. 

Let’s not forget 84-year old Edie Windsor, the victorious plantiff in the Supreme Court case against the Defense of Marriage Act.

There are communities of bears, drag queens, daddies, twinks and twunks, cubs and pups. In every neighborhood there are pitchers, catchers, and power bottoms (who know how to take it). We have an army of butch lesbians and girly girls. There are members of the transgender community who have demonstrated heroic fortitude that far exceeds their non-trans counterparts. We even have some invisible people, numerous unseen men and women who are on the down-low, or choose to remain in the closet.

And finally, we have our secret weapon- Thousands upon thousands of little monsters who are growing not so little, and are eager to show their teeth.

So to my LGBT brothers and sisters, I love all of ya'll but lets not forget our history. Buckle up, dig in, and brace yourself. Our fight for equal rights has just begun."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Theatre Review: 'HAIR' Is A Trip Worth Taking

By Philip Doyle

Before the show began, I listened to two older ladies talk about what a “happening” is. Was it something that hippies did? Is it an art thing? Is it like a flash mob? They decided to just wait and watch the show, and see what happens.

Here is what is happening at Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center- A perfect storm of talent, direction and technical creativity that is Hair: The American Tribal Love-RockMusical.

In its day Hair was, and still is, a revolutionary expression of peace, love, freedom and happiness. More than a hippie musical, it transcends from an anti-war protest into a frolicking, hallucinogenic challenge to reach beyond ourselves.

Hair is scattered with music that we grew up listening to. Most notibly “Aquarius” and “Good Morning Starshine” have earwormed their way into our collective musical lexicon. But for me, the heart of this show is the way the lyrics bring up race and sexuality in numbers like “I’m Black”, “Colored Spade”, “Sodomy”, “Black Boys”, and “White Boys”. It does more than just address themes of free love and racism- Hair celebrates them.

Hair relies on the strength of its cast, and in this case the cast, or “tribe” is pretty damn flawless. From the start, as they weave rhythmically on to the stage, this tribe is an all encompassing kaleidoscope of talent.

From the dawn of the first act, Dionne played by the gorgeous and exceedingly gifted Ashilie-Amber Harris, plants a spectacular seed from which the rest of the play grows.

Matt LaFontaine throws down an attention grabbing performance as Berger, a free-loving, psychedelic, teddy bear of a man. LaFontaine is brimming with a jubilant energy, and has the full attention of the audience until curtain call.

Tyrell D. Rae as Hud flows around the stage with a confident strut. Rae has an innate stage presence that is smart and beautiful to behold. (If you want to see Nick Sugar’s inspired choreography manifest itself brilliantly on the stage, watch Rae.)

Casey Andree is endearing as Claude. He possesses a gentle innocence that is sweet and vulnerable. Like a little brother that you want to shield and protect, Andree’s performance garners the audiences love.

I could go on singing praises to the gifted cast. Burke Walton is fantastic as Woof. Norrell Moore is great as Sheila, as is Rebekah Ortiz as Jeanie. Do you see where this is going? They are all very, very good. I could ramble on, but you get my point. Talent abounds.

The intimate space transforms with the use of vibrant color, projections, and visual effects. Thanks to the efforts of skilled designers and technicians, and helmed by stage manager Steven Neal, the stage comes alive. (This show has got a lot of life.)

Music director Donna Kolpan Debreceni fills the production with the essential vibe that only a live band can provide.

Director/Choreographer Nick Sugar is a blessing. I could toss a myriad of praises his way. The love and joy that embodies Hair flows from Sugar’s creative soul. Within a span of minutes he can present a musical number with the bouncing frivolity and spectacle of a Muppet’s musical; groove you into a Motown doo-wop; take you on a magical mystery tour; and shake things up with the heart-breaking reality of war. Sugar gathers the abundant talent that surrounds him, and coalesces the elements into a fantastic happening.

It would be very difficult for me to conjure up anything critical to say about this production. I could probably mention a few little things, a few nit-picky minor details, but to do so would be a lie. I loved this show.

Hair plays May 17-June 16 at the Town Hall Arts Center. The Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton is a short 20-25 minute drive from central Denver. If you have never been there, or if you’re looking for a reason to go again- this is your chance. Hair is a trip worth taking.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Theater Review: The Doyle & Debbie Show

By Philip Doyle

As the usher decked out in tight jeans and country duds, led me to my seat, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of The Doyle & Debbie Show. Aside from my unadulterated love of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, country music is not my cup of moonshine. So I am pleased as punch to let y’all know that The Doyle & Debbie Show is a hilarious, toe-tappin’, heck of a good time. 

Sheltered under the glass arches of the Denver Center for Performing Arts, the Garner Galleria Theatre is presenting the knee slapping, original sensation that is The Doyle & Debbie Show.

Doyle Mayfield is a former country star trying to get his career going again. This time he has a new singing partner, Debbie, who follows in a long line of previous Debbies. Anxious to bring some attention to his long, and possibly washed-up career, Doyle brings some extra baggage with him that when opened is pretty damn funny.

The D&D Show playfully lampoons country music, while respectfully tipping its hat to classic Nashville. Songs like “Barefoot and Pregnant” and “Stock Car Love” may get some folk’s necks redder than usual, but rest assured that the joy of this show is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. There is magic happening on stage, and a good time is had by all.

I was particularly fond of “I Ain’t No Homo (But Man You Sure Look Good to Me)”, that had me laughing, and admiring the proficient, well paced delivery of material. 

The brilliance of the show shines through its creator, the hilarious Bruce Arntson, who plays Doyle. Arnston brings together a mastery of comic delivery and a staccato singing prowess, the result of which is rather sublime. Denver audiences should relish in the chance to witness his performance, that is a delightful and sincere homage to the country genre.

Debbie is played by Jennifer Blood, and throws down a performance that is enduring in its demure, dimples for days, sweetness, coupled with a raucous, bouncing, sensuality.  

Matthew Carlton plays Buddy, who is one of those actors who can exude funny from every pore. In fact, all three actors can simply stand there and not say a word, and have the audience giggling and wanting more.

Now just as a heads-up to true-blue fans of country music, The Doyle & Debbie Show is a sharp, toe-tapping parody. It does not tread softly in its mockery of country music, but rather two-steps boldly into a satirical world of country greatness. So you best bring your sense of humor and expect a grand ol’ time.

The Doyle & Debbie Show

Plays through July 14th at

The Garner Galleria Theatre

Monday, February 25, 2013

Theater Review: Dangerous Theatre's 'Dark Wood' Transcendent, Captivating

By Philip Doyle

At the Dangerous Theatre on Friday night, I had the pleasure to sit next to a handsome, well spoken, and buck ass naked man. This guy, I’ll call him BJ, was as friendly as he was exposed. BJ seemed to be an outgoing, seize the day kind of guy. He had enjoyed the boundless freedom of nude horseback riding, twister, and even bowling, and this was his chance to mark “attend the theatre nude” off of his bucket list. I admire people like that, and BJ wasn’t the only member of the audience who chose to attend Winnie Wenglewick’s inspired production of Dark Wood sans clothes.

I was in the small minority of clothed theatregoers on the sold out, one night only, clothing optional for everybody experience. Perhaps next time Winnie offers a nude audience night, my sense of adventure will conquer my modesty. But in the meantime, Dark Wood continues its run and this time just the actors are going au natural.   

Dark Wood tells a rather brilliant tale of three apes in a cage that is a fresh and insightful foray into the human psyche. Peter McGarry’s provocative script is layered with existential themes that address concepts of free will, consciousness, and identity. It grapples with confinement and quest to understand what lies beyond. Reminiscent of Sartre’s No Exit, and Becket’s Godot, McGarry’s Dark Wood evokes meaningful thought while keeping the audience thoroughly entertained. 

Okay now…  Let’s talk about the… um… elephant apes in the room.  The actors are unabashedly nude.  While this could serve as an ever-present distraction, the actors overcome the challenge of being upstaged by their junk swinging to and fro with focused delivery and intent.

I haven’t been around naked men in a rather long time, and frankly I was nervous that I would not be able to focus on the script. So I give mad props to the cast, and Winnie Wenglewick’s direction that never gave me the chance to giggle like a nervous schoolgirl. Dark Wood transcends the flesh.

The cast includes some great performances that weave characteristics of human and primate. Brainard Starling is Mbwane, the wisest and eldest ape.  Mbwane is broken down by age and trial, and is fueled by hope and longing.  Starling is controlled and reserved, delivering a cathartic revelation that had my full attention.

Ben Pelayo portrays the ape named Strong Arm, who challenges the pecking order of the group with brute force. Pelayo is a tough guy, playing on levels that range from violently aggressive to restrained empathy.

Patrick Call plays Rico, the ever inquisitive and constantly horny ape.  Now I have sung the praises of some fantastic performances in the past, but Patrick Call drives this show. Please indulge me while I crack my knuckles and type out an inch or so of accolades for Patrick Call: He is an actor brimming with a joyful enthusiasm for his craft that will engage you. Any actor blessed with the ability to deliver the lines of a script with an authentic conversational grace, with an energy and timing that raises the bar of his fellow cast members, is my flippin’ hero.  Bravo, Mr. Call… Brav-f**king-o.

It is no surprise that I’m a big fan of the Dangerous Theatre. Winnie Wenglewick provides original works with the opportunity to be staged in Denver that would otherwise go unseen. Her emphasis is on originality and not on costly high tech spectacle. There is something inherently beautiful when a good script is presented without the distraction of high polish sets and opulent velvet curtains. It’s a happening, all about the art, low budget, and absolutely invaluable.   

If you’re looking to see an excellent example of what The Dangerous Theatre is all about, or a great example of innovative existential theatre, this is your ticket.

Just remember that Dark Wood is not about the nudity. The flesh is simply a cage that confines us all.
Dark Wood plays through April 26 at The Dangerous Theatre. For reservations call 720-233-4703.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Theater Review: Arvada Center's Blithe Spirit Sophisticated, Funny

By Philip Doyle

Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward, Truman Copote. Three men graced with social super-powers of impeccable timing, fine tuned vocabulary, and a keen sense of perception.  These men hold a place in my gay history playbook for two reasons:  

1. They could really keep a party going.  

2. They no doubt elevated the demand placed on everyone around them to simply keep up.  When playing with the big boys of rapier wit you better bring it, or don’t show up at all.  The Arvada Center steps up, and meets the challenge.

Blithe Spirit is a fanciful comedy that was quite a sensation when it premiered in London’s West End in 1941.  Written by Noël Coward, it is a comedy that embraces a level of social discourse that rises above today’s over simplified communication.  A sophisticated and funny foray into an endearing place and time.

The play begins with a round of martinis.  Charles Condomine, a novelist looking for material for his new book, has invited some friends over for drinks, dinner, and a séance.  More martinis are served, and soon the libation flows as freely as wit.

Things go awry when medium Madame Arcati, breaches the astral plane and summons the ghost of Charles's first wife, Elvira. Charles is the only person who can see Elvira, and his second wife, Ruth, is none to pleased. Ruth thinks her husband has lost his marbles, until she realizes the haunting is for real.

What develops from that point is clever and fun, as Ruth demands that Charles get rid of Elvira, but Elvira has plans of her own.

Director Rod A. Lansberry has dutifully constructed a production of Blithe Spirit that really works.  Scenic designer Brian Mallgrave and costume designer Chris Campbell provide the play with perfect atmosphere of time and place. 

The entire cast should be commended.  Steven Cole Hughes is dashing and has a voice that is a delight to listen to.  Kate Berry plays the scorned second wife, Ruth.  Berry approaches her character as a devoted and doting wife, who finds herself backed into an impossible otherworldly corner.   

Leslie O’Carroll instills the clairvoyant Madame Arcati with grand idiosyncratic zeal.  O’Carroll is a comedic force of nature, a perfect storm where an actor’s ability is a perfect match for a character. 

It’s always a great pleasure to see the charming Mark Rubald and the talented Alex Ryer.  Boni McIntyre as Edith the maid, makes her character an audience favorite.

My highest praise for this production goes to Heather Lacy as the ghostly Elvira, for possessing the stage with enchanting presence and beauty.  Lacy’s performance is grand and graceful.  She flutters about the stage as if she is lighter than air.

I have had the opportunity to see a few productions of Blithe Spirit, and this current incarnation is the best yet.  If you believe in ghosts and the occult, you will sense the presence of Noël Coward in the house; gratified that proper attention has been paid to his work.  

Supported with a sure hand by the Arvada Center’s skilled directors, designers, actors and staff, Blithe Spirit will haunt you in the spirit in which Coward intended. 

Blithe Spirit at The Arvada Center’s Black Box Theatre runs through February 17th
For tickets or information call  720-898-7200 or visit

Friday, November 30, 2012

World AIDS Day: HIV Is My Undetectable Bitch

By Philip Doyle

I hope to live a long, loving, and healthy life.  Not just for me, but for my brothers and sisters who were robbed of life’s opportunities.  

I found out that I was HIV+ in 2008 when I was diagnosed with AIDS.  Physically I was a wreck.  I compare it to one of those characters at the end of an Indiana Jones movie.  You know the bad guy who takes a risk, then gets a shocked look on their face before rapidly aging and turning to dust in seconds?  That’s how I felt.  It took a long time to recover, to get on the right meds, and restore my immune system.  Science has taken phenomenal leaps, and I live my life as a tribute to those who didn’t have the chance at life that I did.  I am left standing because an army of people has gone before me.

In some ways the physical recovery was the easy part.  Learning how to overcome stigma and morality judgments can be a challenge.  “Are you clean?” is a question that kind of bugs me.  Heck yes, I’m clean!  Sure, sometimes my car is a mess, but I take showers, wash my clothes, and my leather boots are kept immaculate.

Here’s another question, “How did you become HIV+?” I contracted the virus because it has existed for years and years.  It has lived in the bodies of remarkable men, women, and children.  It has prospered in prostitutes, and drug addicts.  It’s the same virus that has survived inside talented artists, brilliant gay men, and dedicated lovers, who have long since passed.  HIV has snuffed out dear friends and unseen strangers, and now continues to live on, inside me.  That is how I got it.

I am learning not to be shy about disclosing my status.  I own it.  With the help of friends, family, and modern medicine, I have repressed the virus, and made it my undetectable bitch.  My goal is to hold it down and take responsibility for my health, and for the lives of others.  And that pesky virus that has been bouncing from person to person, living for decades, will finally die with me.

World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Theater Review: 'Comfort in the Arms of the Damned' troubling but important

By Philip Doyle

"Comfort in the Arms of the Damned" is a hard show to like, but I sure want to.  It delves into a man’s struggle with mental illness and it is troubling.  He is taunted and bullied by voices in his head.  He suffers.  He explores suicide.  That makes this show a bit of a rough ride.

It’s kind of like supporting a strung out friend through a manic episode of neurotic banter, patiently rooting for a solution, but being annoyed that it is happening in the first place.  Is it fun?  Nope.  Is it important that you be there?  You betcha.

Winnie Wenglewick is a driving force at Denver's Dangerous Theatre, which presents regional premieres and original works that would otherwise go unseen in Denver.  Winnie has a knack for prioritizing a production budget, stripping away the technical shock and awe and focusing on originality, and the art of playwriting.  The result, regardless of popularity, is a creative effort that scores in nobility.  It may be a dangerous way to run a theatre, but it’s damn courageous as well.

Back to the task at hand, “Comfort in the Arms of the Damned” is a challenge.  Anyone who has ever been touched by mental illness or has lost a friend to suicide will no doubt feel uneasy with this play.  It will task you with emotional conflict.  In fact, I’m still conflicted.  On one side, this production is to be commended for presenting an intense and dark struggle in a uniquely provocative way.  On the other side, “Comfort in the Arms of the Damned” battles itself with too much dialog and too many scenes.

Tobias is a young man haunted by demons. As a boy, the monster hiding in his closet manifests itself, becoming Xavier, who constantly reminds the lad that nothing is real, not even love.  Twisting and distorting reality, the demon writhes in delight.  Tobias grows up knowing nothing but dreams, and the possibility that reality is nothing but maggot-ridden flesh, covered up in carnival make-up.

Needless to say, Tobias is dark.  Oh sure, on the outside he can seem like a nice guy, but on the inside, he is a tormented, suicidal, possibly a homicidal, mess.   His challenge is to be free of his demon, and discover the real warmth of a loving embrace.

Five women surround the character of Tobias. In most cases, they are voices and manipulations within his dreams.  His mother, Tessa (Teresa Champion), tries to maintain a sense of warm dignity.  Savannah (Corinne Denny), Lisle (Allison Murray), and Maryssa (Stacia Gordon), all exist in Tobias’s world, a place thrown askew by the monster, Xavier (Brittany Lacour).

Brian McDonell (pictured), who portrays Tobias, is reserved and at times too restrained.  McDonell has an interesting challenge, playing an innocent child thrown into a state of mania, so perhaps approaching the part on the timid side is a wise choice.

It was a pleasant surprise to find the part of Xavier being played by Brittany Lacour.  I have grown to admire Lacour’s fearless commitment to a role.  She plays a manipulative monster, but she’s still kind of fun to watch.  I have thrown her some high praise in the past, so I’ll hold back a bit now.

“Comfort in the Arms of the Damned” was written by Jonathan M. Vick.   I won’t kid you, it’s wordy.  For my taste, some lines seemed to be overwrought with alliterative description and metaphor, which brought me out of the moment.  The constant flow of dialog is no doubt a challenge for some of the actors.

It is difficult to watch “Comfort in the Arms of the Damned” and not be reminded of recent headlines.  Of what happens when person surrenders to the taunting voices, and their distorted reality collides into the real world.

It’s the brave producer/director Winnie Wenglewick who deserves great accolades for having the brass and chutzpah to present this dark and conflicted play.  Her raw technical approach and appreciation for playwrights and actors, becomes an art form on to its own.

After a brooding 97 minutes of “Comfort in the Arms of the Damned,” the proud director thanked her cast and the audience.  She then invited everyone to attend “Mafia Macbeth”, an improv show that was starting in fifteen minutes.  The lobby was bustling with energetic, beautiful people and Denver's Dangerous Theatre was serving tragedy and comedy, like a courageous theatre should.

Denver's Dangerous Theatre presents
Comfort in the Arms of the Damned through November 17.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Theater Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By Philip Doyle

My only comfort this time of year, before the brilliant fall colors decay into the dead gray and beige pallor of winter, is Halloween.  There are few things better than to let go and surrender into the haunted atmosphere of ghosts, ghouls, and stories of the macabre.
So how do you get your goblin on?  You could track down one of the local haunted houses.  That might be good.  But for those of you who have grown weary of standing in the cold for an hour and handing over a Jackson to attend a fifteen-minute, hit-and-miss creep show, here's better option - check out Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the John Hand Theatre.  Immerse yourself into this psycho (slash) bad-boy love story that is cleverly presented with a dash of Victorian charm.

Originally published in 1886, the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was written by Robert Louis Stevenson.   The story is often labeled a kind of allegory; a morality tale of what happens when the devil wins over the better angels of our nature.  It has been adapted numerous times, usually as kind of monster story about a doctor with a split personality.

The Firehouse Theatre Company's presentation of  “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” embraces the original novella.  Adapted by Jeffery Hatcher, this is a dark exploration of the human psyche.

Trying to discover the aspects of consciousness that cannot be found by physical empirical dissection, Jekyll is driven to madness by his use of potions and tinctures.  He is a protagonist who also serves as the antagonist, from man into monster.  It is a classic horror story that is being served up at the perfect time of the year.

The utterly charming Nils Swanson portrays Dr. Henry Jekyll.  He is a suave and smart actor.  Swanson is able to convey the tenuous balance of the brilliant doctor’s quest for knowledge, and collapse into madness and addiction.  This is a performance that grabbed my attention, and created a sense of time and place that made the real world disappear.   

This time around, one actor plays the good doctor, and four actors play Mr. Edward Hyde.  This adds many dynamic possibilities that director Brian J. Brooks weaves on stage.  The various incarnations of Mr. Hyde range from tortured, seductive, and just plain sadistic.  

The actors playing Mr. Hyde run the gamut of the performance scale, from quietly confident, to borderline manic.  These actors also play other supporting characters in the story.  It’s fun to watch an actor switch from one physical stature to the next, from proper English dialect to a broken Scottish brogue. 

One example to mention is Clint Heyn, who throws down a diverse array of characters.  He can play a snippy and comical professor dissecting a corpes, and then play a version of Hyde that is downright creepy.  As Hyde, his offer to Dr. Jekyll to go out on a “ramble” was delectable. 

Kristen Mair has an interesting challenge playing Elizabeth Jelkes, who falls in love with Edward Hyde.  Why would anyone fall in love with such a fiend?  Mair proves to be quite capable at providing the answer to this question.

All of the actors seem to enjoy putting order into Dr. Jekyll’s personality disorder.  They are supported in their effort by Sarah Coughlin’s original music, which seems to sneak its way into a scene, enhancing the moment without being intrusive.  I applaud director Brian J. Brooks, who artfully put all of the pieces together. 

If you’re looking for something to put you into the Halloween mood, this should do the trick!

Firehouse Theatre Company presents Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the John Hand Theatre, October 5th –November 3rd.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Theater Review: The Three Musketeers

By Philip Doyle

A swashbuckling romantic adventure, I would argue that the live stage is the best way to present The Three Musketeers. And I can’t think of anyone better suited to the challenge than The Denver Center Theatre Company.

This is the story that exemplifies the bond of friendship that is forged by standing side-by-side, bravely defending the noble principles of dignity and honor.  Alexandre Dumas’ widely popular novels were released serially in 1844, and his stories seem to be as relevant as ever.

The Musketeers have been represented in every conceivable format for decades.  Novels, radio shows, countless movies (and sequels), television, and even comic books.  Usually, these are a bastardization of Dumas’ most popular work.  Watered down versions, hastily produced to sell children’s toys and collectible knickknacks.  Film versions have been blessed with the likes of Douglass Fairbanks; while other versions seem cursed with the celebrity de jour, (Charlie Sheen springs to mind. Ugh).

Adapted by Linda Alper, Douglas Langworth, and Penny Metropulos, this incarnation of The Three Musketeers retains the flamboyant charm of the heroic swordsmen, and includes layers of political intrigue, sexual maneuvering, and unwavering camaraderie.  Director Art Manke has staged and choreographed a production that will appeal to your fanciful sense of romantic adventure.

Initially, The Three Musketeers is a familiar adventure.  The young and impetuous D’Artagnan wants to join the King’s Musketeers.  D’Artagnan joins forces with Athos, Aramis and Porthos, and together they defend the honor of the King, Louis the Just, and his Queen, Anne of Austria.  Along the way, D’Artagnan discovers love, loss, and the virtues of becoming a man.

There are raucous drunken brawls, charming sexual flirtations, battles of wit, and sword fights aplenty.  There is the foppish King, who is easily influenced by his chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu.  Acts of evil are disguised and masqueraded under a veil of religious righteousness.  Hmm, that is still going on today.  Touché, Monsieur Dumas. Touché.

It’s the production power that gives The Three Musketeers integrity.  What could be a drab and predictable story is lifted high by outstanding technical design and support, which seems second nature to the Denver Center.

Dazzling costume design by B. Modern.  Light and sound that saturates the stage with wonderful energy.  Competent fight direction and staging that swiftly moves a large and talented cast from one scene to the next.  This is top-notch theatre production.

As the audience enters The Stage Theatre, they are welcomed by an exquisite visual prologue to the play.  The gorgeous set, designed by Tom Buderwitz, immediately engages the audience.  With multiple levels, stairways, gates, nooks and crannies, that presents all sorts of dynamic possibilities of the adventure to come.

All of the elements join together, breathing new life to a familiar classic.  The Three Musketeers shines because of competent direction and choreography, the skill of gifted actors, and a profound level of technical design and craftsmanship.  All for one, and one for all.

The Denver Center Theatre Company presents The Three Musketeers through October 21, 2012.
For tickets call 303-893-4100 or visit

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Theater Review: STOMP

By Phil Doyle

I have a confession… As a person who claims to be a lover of all things creative, I have allowed assumptions to govern my patronage of the arts.  Regretfully, for the past twenty years or so, I have avoided the worldwide sensation that is STOMP.

It is a shameful prejudice that I have held toward STOMP, and the productions that have followed in its lineage.  Fortunately for me, I have found redemption, and I believe it’s my duty to make up for my years of blind misjudgment.  It is time to testify to you, my brothers and sisters… Bare witness to the errors of my ways, and join the celebration of life called STOMP.

If you haven’t had the chance to see it live on stage, it is high time that you go.  Here are the reasons why:

STOMP is a tribal affirmation.  If you have ever danced at a club, been to a rave, or unabashedly rocked out to a favorite tune in the car, you will understand the blissful joy that music provides.  There is something magical about surrendering to a percussive beat.  An intense rhythmic expression of creative rage, that when shared with others, is like a big primal group hug.

STOMP is way more than people banging on things.  Oh yes, make no mistake it gets pretty loud, but not like an auditory assault.  Precisely orchestrated and artfully choreographed- a dazzling blend of the senses.  There is a nuanced arrangement of light and sound using Zippo lighters.  Performers dancing with 50 pound barrels strapped to their feet.  Spectacular.

STOMP is fun for all.  Like the clever, tongue-and-cheek, humor of a Charlie Chaplin film, this is a show that appeals to the young and old alike.  The actors playfully engage the audience, and the audience returns the favor.  With such wide appeal, this is the most financially successful show in Off-Broadway history.

STOMP is a big boost to the libido.  If the idea of beautiful men and/or women, at the physical peak of their lives, sweat glistening from their muscular bodies doesn’t appeal to you... I suggest that you check your pulse and seek medical attention.   Eight attractive performers, exuding assertive confidence and phenomenal skill, is just dayum sexy.

STOMP’s performers work their asses off.  This show demands maximum effort, and the calories that are burned on the stage boggle the mind.  These men and women are literally swinging from the rafters.  I don’t know where they find people who have such boundless energy and ability in dance, percussion, and performance.  The resulting standing ovation was well deserved.

After the show I noticed the heightened vigor of the crowd.  A transfer of energy had taken place.  People were smiling, tapping a rhythmic beat on their programs, and the steps exiting the Buell seemed easier to climb.  Live theatre at its best.  (I extend mad props to everyone involved in this production for giving me the inspiration to get off my lazy Irish ass, and clean my garage.)

To wrap things up, I would like to address the overbearing shmuck that was sitting directly behind me.  (I have incredible disdain for theatre patrons who lack self-control and social decorum.)  Anyway, this guy sat down and threw out a challenge to the decent, well-mannered people around him asking, “Yep, I’ve seen this show before, and if any of y'all know what it’s about, I’d like to know.”  My response, other than a dirty look and some shade, is to please refer to the five points I have made above.

STOMP is a jumpin’ and thumpin’ party that appeals to the best parts of human nature.  Go join the celebration.

STOMP plays at The Buell Theatre through September 30. For tickets or more information visit

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Theater Review: The Threepenny Opera a delicious treat

By Phil Doyle

Bertolt Brecht's ground breaking influence is often *gasp* forgotten by modern day lovers of traditional musical theatre.  The Threepenny Opera exists in a desperate, eat or be eaten, exploit or be exploited, corrupt world. This is a show that stands in sharp contrast to the glossy notion of what the musical became. Before Roger's and Hammerstein wrote songs about surrey's with fringes on top.  The Threepenny Opera is a brisk dip in ice water, after wallowing in a hot tub for too long.  

The Threepenny Opera (1927) by Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill, is based on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. The title indicated the ticket price, and was originally meant to appeal to lower class theatregoers, leveling out the disparity of the theatre patron.

Brechtian theatre provides a didactic approach that often demonstrates hypocritical and polarizing themes of society. For example, the dichotomy of the rich and destitute is presented in such a way that may shock and alienate the observer, and then provokes reaction. 

YIKES!  Listen to me!  Are you still with me?  If you are, I bid you congratulation. You have passed my test.  Allow me to brush off all of this historical theatre gobbledygook … 

So, to sum things up in a metaphorical nutshell:  The works of Bertolt Brecht gleefully wallow into hardcore filth and debauchery that makes the Tournament of Roses Parade look like the Folsom Street Fair.

The Threepenny Opera is a love story set amongst beggars and prostitutes.  Macheath, aka Mack the Knife, is a successful criminal who captures the love of Polly Peachum, and they quickly decide to marry.  Polly's father, Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum, doesn't take kindly to the engagement and sets a plan in motion to have Macheath arrested and hanged.

We quickly discover that all of the characters are corrupt and desperate opportunists.  From the chief of police, to the women who Macheath has manipulated to meet his own needs.

The action comes to a head with the hangman’s noose around Macheath’s neck.  At that vital moment, TA-DA! A miracle.  The execution is called off, and Macheath is awarded a lifetime of wealth (and thus power).  Perhaps this epic moment of financial salvation was originally made to appeal to the poor patrons in the audience.  It is an act of a deus ex machina that would make Euripides proud.

Director El Armstrong brings to the stage a production of The Threepenny Opera that is utterly approachable.  Armstrong proves to be a very good storyteller, and skilled at providing this cleverly staged production. 

This version tends to lean on the safe side.  Sure it tosses out the occasional four-letter word, and social taboos are addressed, but it feels like it has been watered down.  Which brings me to an interesting point.  This production still works, especially for Brecht newbies, or the more traditional theatre attendee.  

Though not as stark and shocking as many fans of Brecht would expect, this production is driven by the talents of gifted actors. 

The first reason to go see this show:  Richard Cowden as Macheath (Mackie the Knife).  Cowden gives a powerful performance that embodies the imposing presence of Macheath.  He has a commanding vocal range, and an exquisite ability to communicate his character’s intent.

The second reason to see this show:  Mel Horton as Mrs. Peachum.  Her skilled vocal talent raises the bar of this production.  Horton performance is a delight to behold.

My third reason to see this show:  Megan Van De Hey as Jenny.  A stunning performance, and a voice that gives The Threepenny Opera its momentum.  For me, this show really began once Van De Hey hit the stage.  Have I mentioned stunning?  Oh yeah, I did … and the third time is a charm. Stunning.

There are other reasons to see this show.  There are other standouts.  Personally, Cowden, Horton, and Van De Hey are gems.  The rest of the talented cast sometimes fluctuate in ability and performance.

I applaud and give mad props to any theatre company delivering Brecht.  I am a proud theatre geek, and loved some stand out performances in this incarnation of The Threepenny Opera.  The rest of the show felt kind of safe.  Brecht served a la mode, (albeit with vanilla ice cream), is still a delicious treat.

Miners Alley Playhouse presents "The Three Penny Opera" through October 21. For more information visit or call 303-935-3044.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Theater Review: boom

By Phil Doyle

“boom” begins as a one-night stand situational comedy and evolves, quite literally, into an apocalyptic survival tale. 

Suzanna Wellens plays Barbara, the bouncy facilitator of “boom”.  Apparently her job is to run the show, standing upstage, pulling levers and pushing buttons, stopping the action in its tracks to interject narrative.  Barbara also acts as a Greek chorus of sorts, emphasizing key moments with bells and punctuating important dialog with percussive timpani.  She sets the scene and introduces us to the play’s two characters.

Jules, played by Royce Wood, is a post grad marine biologist.  Driven by a hunch, and a methodical scientific observation of coral fish, he knows that the world is about to end.  A comet is going to strike, and cause a massive extinction event.  So, in an attempt to save the human species, he places an ad on Craigslist that promises “Sex to change the course of the world!”  Jules plan is to lure and keep a woman in his bomb shelter/apartment/lab, where they will be safe, and become the modern day Adam and Eve. 

Enter Jo, played by Samara Bridwell.  Jo is an energetic undergrad looking for a quick sexual tryst, and ends up an unwilling captive.  She is also prone to mysterious episodes of dropping dead, and then springing back to life.   

Jules is bewildered by Jo’s fatal narcoleptic fits and resurrections, but that isn’t the only obstacle in his plan.  It turns out that Jules is gay.   But he is still determined to do what it takes to propagate the species.  What follows are moments of hilarity where all the actors shine.  When asked how do you know that you’re really gay?  Jules replies, “The non-randomness of the erections.”  “boom” is bejeweled with moments of astute and witty dialog.

Suzanna Wellens is brimming with spunk and enthusiasm as Barbara, the play’s cruise director of sorts.  Wellens does a good job of focusing the attention of the audience, particularly in the beginning. She expedites the play’s action, addressing the audience from time to time, reminding us of the remarkable importance of what we’re witnessing. 

I would like to mention that I have a qualm with plays that break the fourth wall. If an actor is actively engaging the audience, address them directly.  Grab our attention, make eye contact with us, and do not focus on an empty chair, or an imaginary balcony.   

Samara Bridwell proves great ability to shamelessly commit to a character’s extremes.  She is a fearless actor.  Bridewell’s Jo can move to and fro, from ruthlessly horny to hopelessly disappointed, from bounding around stage to passing out dead.
My highest commendation goes to Royce Wood, an actor possessing great skill and reckless abandon.  He confidently seizes a moment, and joyfully has his way with it.  Wood embodies his character Jules as if the part was written for him, which is one of the best reasons to go see “boom”.  He is likeable, smart, and comfortable on stage.

The challenge of this play is maintaining energy and building momentum toward its clever conclusion.  “boom” begins with skillful purpose.  It nabs the audience’s attention and promises a rewarding reveal.  But, the journey becomes detoured and loses some speed along the way.  My experience as an observer became challenged by the predictable interruptions of the action.  The staccato stop and go’s labored my initial enthusiasm, instead of building it up.  

Still, this play appeals to my inner-science nerd ... and as a lover of all things theatre, I greatly appreciate Royce Wood's performance.  boom” is a witty apocalyptic comedy with an evolutionary twist.   

"boom" plays The Edge Theatre in Lakewood, Colorado through October 21. For tickets or more information visit or call 303-232-0363.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A sneak preview of the 35th Starz Denver Film Festival

By Phil Doyle

I recently had the good fortune of being invited to a sneak preview of the 35th Starz Denver Film Festival, one of the perks of writing for, and a special screening of the upcoming thriller Arbitrage.

Every year the Film Festival’s attendance has been increasing, and every year the number of films, the size of the events, the diversity of the discussion panels, gets bigger and better. Last year’s event had a record breaking attendance of 55,025 people and presented 282 films from 40 countries.

The Festival presents achievement awards including the John Cassavetes Award, the Mayor’s Career Achievement Award, the Excellence in Acting Award, and the Rising Star Award. Last year, actors Judy Greer, James Cromwell, and Alan Cumming were in attendance to receive the Festival's top awards. Danny Boyle, Francis Ford Coppola, Morgan Freeman, Sean Penn, and Helen Mirren are previous attendees. I could keep name-dropping, but the list goes on and on …

Needless to say, The 2012 Stars Film Festival should be a doozy! The Festival’s venues will include the Denver FilmCenter location (next to the Tattered Cover on Colfax), and is also expanding to include screens at the Denver Pavilions!

Personally, the best part of the Festival is this: The people who support and attend have a love and appreciation of film. It gives me a chance to get out of the house, attend a diverse array of films, and socialize with some like-minded cool people. You can probably tell I’m a big fan. Mm-hmm, thats right. I am. I even have a t-shirt!

So, before I put my pom-poms down, let me enthusiastically encourage you to check out The 35th Stars Film Festival. Plus, check out the Denver Film Society, which hosts events all year.

Finally, if you haven’t been to the Denver FilmCenter/Colfax, check it out! It’s next to the Tattered Cover on Colfax., under the parking structure. Really, there’s a very cool movie theatre in there! They have a liquor license and everything!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Movie Review: Richard Gere Shines In 'Arbitrage'

By Philip Doyle

Arbitrage is Nicholas Jarecki’s new thriller about lust, greed, and the desperate measures taken to avoid the karmic backwash of shameful acts.  Writer and director Jarecki immerses the audience in a world filled with the shiny opulent trappings of high-risk investment.   

By all appearances, Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is filthy rich, beaming with confidence, and an admired family man.  A billionaire possessing formidable wit and intelligence, and swinging a hefty set of gold cojones.  Then we discover, and in my opinion way to soon, that he is a cheat.  He cheats in business, he cheats on his wife, and he lies to his family.  In reality, Miller is desperate and constantly vying for ways to protect his exaggerated wealth and adulterous nature.

Miller’s world is beginning to unravel.  He has hedged the books and borrowed millions to cover up the exaggerated value of his company.  Meanwhile, his dilemma worsens when he flees the scene of a car crash that has killed his bitchy-French-artist-mistress.

So … all of this has happened within the first 20 minutes or so of the film.  We know about the hedging and the cheating.  We know that money makes Miller's world go round.  We know that he will do what it takes to minimize the collateral damage of his deceptive acts and greedy nature.  We know Miller is a weasel, albeit a smart and charming weasel, and a master of deflection.  He is obviously brilliant and has the ability to work his way out of sticky predicaments.  We know all of this, way too soon. 

The thrill of Arbitrage then becomes watching Robert Miller artfully dodging and weaving to avoid financial ruin, and felony manslaughter and fraud charges.  Thankfully, Gere is in top form.  His performance has an alluring gloss, and a dodgy, callus core.

Richard Gere has often been underrated as an actor.  Personally, I think he has risen high from the ranks of an Officer and a Gentleman and gives Arbitrage great credibility. (Plus, he is my favorite Buddhist DILF).

Tim Roth plays a bulldog detective who has a growing animosity toward rich people’s ability to escape conviction.  As usual, Roth embodies his character with committed and deceptively competent realness.

It is always a pleasure to see Susan Sarandon.  She play’s the scorned, but not-at-all naive wife.  With the exception of a rather predictable plot twist, it is a shame that Sarandon’s formidable acting skills were so under utilized in this film.

A standout is Brit Marling who plays the billionaire’s daughter. Indie film fans will remember her highly acclaimed performance in Another Earth.  Marling proves to be a versatile, complex, and competent actor. Nate Parker's portrayal of Miller's unknowing accomplice is well played and touching. 

The story had my full attention from the get go, yet, like the worn out gloss of it’s main character, the thrill became desperate, hurried, and expected.  Arbitrage is an initially engaging story that has been placed in the hands of excellent actors.   Richard Gere's performance is a good reason to see this film.  But, in the end, the sum is not as great as its parts.

Arbitrage will be shown as part of this year's Starz Denver Film Festival. Last year, a record-breaking 55,025 people attended the Starz Denver Film Festival . During the twelve-day period, we exhibited more than 282 films from 40 countries, held over a dozen receptions and panel discussions, and hosted over 198 filmmakers and special guests, while actors Judy Greer, James Cromwell, and Alan Cumming were in attendance to receive the Festival's top awards.  Plans for many exciting programs are already underway for this year's Festival that will run November 1-11, 2012.