Showing posts with label Susan Hennessey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Susan Hennessey. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Theater Review: Twelfth Night, or What You Will by William Shakespeare

By Susan Hennessey

A partnered production between Arvada Center and Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Twelfth Night opens with an ominous thunderstorm which masters the currents of the sea and results in a shipwrecked vessel separating twin siblings, each believing the other has drowned.  The thunderous waves of the sea may have stricken a ship, but the havoc that is wreaked on the shore is greatly entertaining with mistaken identities, genders and plot.  Brilliant acting keeps a patient pace during the telling of this tale keeping the audience grinning throughout.
It is always a challenge to stage Shakespeare’s different locales due to the inevitable spying that occurs to move the plot along.  Act II warrants great praise for Philip Sneed’s direction and clever Scenic Design by Brian Mallgrave volleying mirth amongst Sir Tobey, Aguecheek and Fabian as they watch their device of deceit unfold in Malvolio’s dress and manner believing he is reciprocating the desires of his Countess Olivia for whom he stewards.  This Shakespearean banter is hilariously handled with excellence by Jamie Ann Romero’s Fabian, Logan Ernstthal’s Sir Toby and Ian Andersen as Sir Andrew Aguecheek.  The prize fool is played with honest vulnerability by Timothy McCracken who commits soundly to his idiocy, making his fateful fall tragically sad.  He is so deeply wounded, you feel a little injured yourself. 
This comedy ends as it must with the twins uniting, identities exposed and lovers wooed.  Twelfth Night is a crowd favorite, balancing three plots woven together with pluck and musicianship from Jake Walker’s Feste.  His impish nature should not be mistaken as silly, for his wisdom could have saved several identity mix-ups, and love could have been discovered much earlier, but then you would have missed out on great acting, directing and a delightful evening!
Performances are at the Arvada Center during the month of May and then the production moves to Boulder during the Colorado Shakespeare Festival through July. For tickets go to or

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Theater Review: CHESS

By Susan Hennessey
If you missed CHESS at the Arvada Center, fear not, you can still catch it at its new home, the Lone Tree Arts Center.  You won’t miss it – it’s big, big, big!  CHESS, written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus with lyrics by Tim Rice, allows no time for the viewer to get complacent.  As soon as you’ve been seated, there is an immediate onslaught of songs that quickly establish the story, which is set during the Cold War and played out via a National Chess Match in Merano, Italy between the Soviet champion Anatoly Sergievsky and US champion, Frederick Trumper. 
The game of chess acts as a powerful allegory between these powerhouses throughout the play. CHESS is directed with clever staging by Rod Lansberry, suggesting The Arbiter has his hands on the game at all times. (SPOILER) The Soviets clearly have the upper hand in this one, not only in their inevitable win at the chess match, but also in the music that was written for them, which favors the angst and passion of the Soviets, namely the character of Anatoly, who is masterfully played by Tally Sessions. (END SPOILER) In Act I his “Where I Want to Be” holds the audience captive.  “Anthem” the final number in Act I is so riveting, you’re glad that there’s an intermission.
There aren’t many productions of CHESS still being offered 30 years after it was first written. Mostly because it’s a difficult musical to do well.  In this version, there are 23 songs in Act I and 18 in Act II - and this music is demanding.  With such a challenging musical, it seems that a director has two options - to pick either a clear story with less music, or go for all of the music that was added over several productions over the course of several years with the result being a convoluted outcome.  For the size of stage available at the Lone Tree Arts Center, less would have been preferred as it would have allowed the story to unfold while still retaining the musical numbers the audiences long to hear. 

Act II opens with crowd favorite “One Night in Bangkok," with flashy costumes and lots of skin.  Very fun!  This Act also features solos by Anatoly’s wife Svetlana, played by Megan Van De Hey.  She fights for Anatoly in “You and I” and keeps the audience spellbound.  Passion reigns in this two and half hour piece, and love allows the natural course of things to settle, but like any game, someone will lose.  Who?
The Arvada Center production of CHESS, A MUSICAL is at the Lone Tree Arts Center plays through April 29. For dates and times visit

(Editor's Note: Video of One Night in Bangkok is the classic Murray Head version from the 1980s)

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Theater Review: Six Degrees of Separation

    By Susan Hennessey
    How fortunate is Denver that the Vintage Theatre is not going away? It is simply moving to its new location on Colfax and Dayton, just five miles from its current home on 17th Avenue.

    Their swan song in this tidy and intimate space is the deliciously delightful “Six Degrees of Separation” by John Guare and directed by the visionary Len Matheo. The script is spicy with racial tension, class discrimination, with a dash of humor. The audience is immediately pulled into the story by the underlying tension between the main couple, Flan and Ouisa Kittredge, skillfully portrayed by Josh Hartwell and Lisa DeCaro. A flashy, Upper East Side New York couple busy racing to the top in their perfect clothes, living in their perfect homes and with perfect appearances, which include the perfect Ivy League schools for their perfect children, they’re so impressed with themselves, what they live for is just one more opportunity to best themselves.

    What they are not is genuine. They collect and broker genuine art for a living, a subtle juxtaposition. The piece of art by Wassily Kandinsky in the Kittridge’s home is a centerpiece in their living room which is celebrated for featuring a painting on either side of the canvas. The Kittridges change the painting around from time to time, an excellent detail into the lives of its owners.

    The most pathetic vacancy in their lives is relationships, especially true and meaningful relationships with their own children. The insensitivity to this reality is the perfect void that can be quickly filled by a Paul, (Theo Wilson) a visitor posing as a friend of their children’s from school. Paul quickly navigates his way into their insecure world. The exchanges in this opening scene are suffocating on this intimate stage suggesting a knowingness, but each character is carefully strutting their colors to look the most stunning to this stranger.

    However, there is a most surprising connection between Paul and a central character as they discover a part of themselves that can give; they are each in need, and recognize a desire to help the other. It’s a tragic discovery, but this scene is staged cleverly as if each character occupies a frame of a comic overlapping with the other in a different location in the city. The audience sees a yearning that is real and you want this to work. It’s new to both characters; they are connected. Against all odds. An unlikely connection, which may result in honesty.

    It’s a treat to have such an outstanding cast, each vibrantly portraying their individuality in this complex and competitive world. Each character is fully themselves as they interact with each other, but alone, they are being stripped of their confidence, the victim of their own undoing.

    The outstanding cast includes Theo Wilson (Paul), Josh Hartwell (Flan), Lisa DeCaro (Ouisa), Cindy Laudadio Hill (Kitty), Charles Wingerter (Larkin), Sonia Justl (Elizabeth), Stephen Swofford (Rick), David Blumenstock (Dr. Fein), Matt Sheahan (Geoffrey), Jose Zuniga (Trent), Joe LaFollette (Woody), Caitlin Tomlinson (Tess), Zachary Page (Ben), Loren Cogswell (Doug), Erik Siegling (The Hustler), Addison Parker (Doorman/Policeman) and Rich Beall as the Detective.

    Performances are Fridays and Saturdays through April 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 ($20 advance) on Fridays and Saturdays; $21 ($18 advance) on Sundays. Tickets are available by calling 303-839-1361 or online at at Vintage Theatre, 2119 E 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80206.

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Theater Review: And Things That Go Bump in the Night

    By Susan Hennessey

    As the lights go down, three individuals enter with placards which hide each of their iconic white masks with its individual maddened expression. The placards are turned, revealing Equinox Theatre Company’s inaugural play for their 2012 Season, “And Things that Go Bump in the Night.” The masks are removed, but the madness in their characters remain.

    On the set of what is seemingly a living room, you are introduced to a brother, Sigfried (played by Brandon Palmer) and a sister, Lakme (played by Rebecca Morphis), who have just come home from the festivities in the street before their nightly curfew. You learn that the family has dressed their cellar as a more inviting place to pass each evening as they wait for their apocalyptic end that is inevitable. The family is living as nocturnal animals settling in a nightly routine of antics and unpredictable ad hoc performances by their mother, Ruby. The children greatly desire her attention, but she needs quite a bit for herself, so they’ll have to wait. Sarah MacMillan as Ruby has her hands full with this whimsical character and gives a passionate performance. 

    This black comedy by Terrence McNally has thrown this cast of characters in these tight quarters to expose the rawness of human nature. It’s a challenging script even today, 50 years after its debut in 1964. Act II offers some answers to the madness of Act I with the introduction of this evening’s nightly visitor lured by the children, and it is then that the audience gets to find out whether or not they have judged these characters correctly. The stranger, Clarence, sure-handedly played by Zak Wziontka, expresses the same questions the audience had earlier, but ultimately, the answers do not get settled, and at the end of the play, things are much more doomful than once perceived.
    Or are they?

    “And Things That Go Bump in the Night" plays through March 17. Performance dates are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM. With a pay-what-you-can Industry Night on March 8th. Tickets are $15 and are available online at Performances will be at The Bug Theatre – 3654 Navajo Street in Denver. Reservations are accepted at 720-984-0781. This show is recommended for mature audiences.