“See How They Run” is Jolly Good Fun

Because the show is almost through its run and because I want to encourage people to come see this fun show, I’m jamming through my review quickly. I want to post this soon so all my community theater-loving friends will go see See How They Run before it’s over.

Here’s what I liked about the production:

Director Dana Anquoe (who also plays Miss Skillin) has wisely and winningly used tons of physical comedy, a few consistent hilarious physical gags, and has encouraged her talented cast to play it big. I heartily approve. The VCP has a decent-sized theater in the round, and it would be tempting to just play it safe. Dana does not and there is sound, movement, doors slamming, people falling all over the place and other mayhem going every scene. You’d think it would be distracting, but it isn’t. It’s fun, fast, and fulfilling.

 

The costumes are wonderful and quite authentic. The set is as good as a theater in the round can be. There is a rather large couch that occupies one side of the theater, but it is necessary to the plot. The sound (by Jack Brannelly) is perfect (music and sound effects), and I love that the space is intimate enough that no microphones are required.

The cast all work well together, and I know they’ve pulled this show together quickly, so it’s impressive that they all are so cohesive, especially with so much physical comedy.

 

The cast is: Eric Ramaekers as Clive Winston, Brooklyn Poulter as Penelope Toop, William McAllister as Lionel Toop (David Henry understudy), Madeline Brannelly as Ida, Andrew Whittaker as Bishop of Lax (Patrick Brannelly understudy), Joseph Smith as Arthur Humphreys, Bruce Blackman as Sgt. Towers, and Tyler Renstrom as The Intruder. All actors did a fine job, though there were slips and glitches in the English accents at times. But I want to highlight two of the performers who absolutely lit up each scene they were in. One is Madeline Brannelly, who played Ida the Maid. She did a fabulous job and I look forward to seeing her in many future productions. The other is Tyler Renstrom, who had one of the smaller parts, but made every movement, every word, every joke as clear and perfect as they should be.

See How They Run is a farce, and as I said, Anquoe’s direction was spot on for this show. However, I was slightly disappointed when The Intruder makes his entrance that the characters who interact with him aren’t more afraid. The Intruder threatens them all with a gun, but I really saw no fear. I’m not sure if this was a directional choice, an actor’s choice, or what. My take on farce is that the people on stage are dead serious (slight pun, sorry) while we audience members basically see their antics as silly. The more serious the actors, the funnier it gets. Having that one more layer of fear when The Intruder appears would have created an interesting tension that would have given the audience even more to laugh at.

 

However, there are hundreds of laughs in this show. I myself just finished a show that was very intense and I was pleased that See How They Run was just plain fun. I was able to sit back, watch and hear all the fun plot twists and hilarious antics, and just enjoy myself.

Grab your friends, your grandma, your kids, and treat yourself to See How They Run. You’ll be glad you did.

See How They Run

Valley Center Playhouse
780 N 200 E
Lindon, Utah

http://valleycenterplayhouse.com/

Jan 25 – Feb 18

Tickets: Adult $7.00, Children/Seniors/Students $5.00, Family pass $25.

In Echo Theatre’s “Little Happy Secrets,” Big Things Come In Small Packages

A Utah Theater Review by Ben Christensen

Sometimes big things really do come in small packages. The Echo Theatre’s Little Happy Secrets is a small production. It’s an eighty-minute play featuring only four actors, produced on Echo’s small stage, barely large enough to contain the couch and dining room table that make up the set. Yet these four actors use these eighty minutes and this intimate space to tell a big story—the story of Claire, a recently-returned LDS missionary and BYU student who finds herself falling in love with her roommate, Brennan. As the story unfolds, the audience is invited to ponder such deep issues as sexuality, love, faith, and justice.

Continue reading

Salty Dinner Theater’s “Bonnie & Clyde: a love story” is On Target

By Jennifer Mustoe, with Caden Mustoe

Two years ago, I fell in love with Salty Dinner Theater at their Valentine performance of Romeo and Juliet – Choose Your Own Adventure. Since then, I’ve rarely missed a SDT show. Why? Because they are lots of fun.

This year’s selection, Bonnie & Clyde: a love story, written by Daniel Brassard, is a bittersweet and somewhat unusual choice for the Valentine show. I talked to Mary Brassard, Salty Dinner Theater’s founder and owner (and wife of the playwright), and she said that they had asked the season ticket holders what show they’d love to see this season of love and it was an overwhelming request for a play about Bonnie and Clyde.

Mary, who has now become a dear friend, told me that she and Daniel did copious research so their play would be accurate. I was impressed with their research and how they were able to implement small details (did you know that Bonnie Parker was a poetess?) into the script. You’ll notice in the promotional photos, the Brassards found original photos of the notorious criminals and then recreated them with their actors. Very. Nice. Touch.

As with all Salty Dinner Theater performances, there are some inside/current jokes interspersed into the story, and there is a whole gag about Hunger Games that had my teenage companions and me (and the rest of the audience) laughing hysterically. Throughout the show, Clayton Barney, who winningly plays Buck Barrow, croons to the audience. He has a remarkable voice and his confidence is delightful. All the characters of the show hob nob with the audience members before the show. Barney was affable and fun, and set up a few details of the story that would soon unfold. His character also is one of the narrators, which helps, as this isn’t really a layered plot line. It is a history, which needs to be told as well as acted.

Ryan Sharette’s Clyde Barrow and Sheri Gillies’ Bonnie Parker had great chemistry and their physicality in the show was fabulous. We saw the show at University Mall’s Old Spaghetti Factory and the actors need to wind and wend through the tables and make it look like they are traveling along in a story, not through a restaurant. These two did this very well and made us feel like we were part of the show, not bystanders.

SDT regular Tonia Sayer plays Blanche Barrow, and is the other narrator, and she glides through the show with her natural grace and polished skill. I’ve seen her in several shows and in each, she portrays the character meticulously and well. I look forward to her performances.

Rounding out the cast is Madman, who plays lawman Frank Hammer. The couple sitting next to me, who told me they are season ticket holders, said they love Madman and can’t wait to see him in SDT shows. He really is a fun performer.

 

 

 

 

Salty Dinner Theater always does a great job with costumes, and their sound is always perfect. You don’t know how nice good sound is until you don’t have it. Hooray for good sound at all of their shows!

There are three things I wish had been different with Bonnie & Clyde: a love story. When performing familiar plays (like Romeo and Juliet and Wizard of Oz, both of which were fabulous) typically audience members are asked to play a small part in the show. Tonight, audience members were pulled up to participate, but there weren’t really ‘parts’ for them, and it was a little disappointing. It’s always fun to see improv from audience members.

Also, all of the songs Clayton Barney sung while we were eating dinner (don’t get the lasagna–stick with the fettuccini) were current numbers. I would have loved to hear songs that were popular when Bonnie and Clyde were famous. I realize this was a stylistic choice and current songs encourage people to sing along. But because Bonnie & Clyde: a love story really does ring authentic, I’d have loved to hear music from that era.

Finally, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were murderers. This was never defined in the SDT play. I’m not exactly sure how this could have been detailed and not ruin the entire show, but I like truth and these two notorious people were, at the very least, flawed. They were criminals, and yes, they were more than robbers. I’d have liked to see them portrayed as not quite so ‘fun’. I think this cast and these writers have the talent to push their audiences to see Bonnie and Clyde as villans, not merely a madcap couple that get their money by robbing instead of working at jobs and still make the show worthwhile. I’d have liked to see this important but difficult detail because I have faith in Salty Dinner Theater’s writing and acting. It’s top notch.

However, let me be very clear. Bonnie and Clyde: a love story seems to be Salty Dinner Theater’s most challenging and compelling production to date. They have taken a rather tragic story and made it not only enjoyable, but the phrase: “we all choose our own path” is reiterated several times. They aren’t making Bonnie and Clyde heroes. But they are saying that they did love one another, and they did stay true to one another.

I admit, I was also intrigued to see this show as Utah Repertory Theater Company, which I’m associated with, is doing Broadway’s Bonnie and Clyde, the Musical, this fall and I wanted to see what SDT did with the same material. I applaud Mary and Daniel Brassard. They represented this story with clarity and style.

The ending, which I won’t reveal, is very sweet and leaves us with a Valentine-ish feeling.

Bonnie & Clyde: a love story

February 8-16. At various locations (see website for information). $8.00 for children, $15.00 adults (dinner is additional)

http://www.saltydinnertheater.com/

You Must Go See the OBT’s Dr. U!

By Rachel Summerhalder

As I sit down to write a review of Dr. U, at the Off Broadway Theater in Salt Lake, I find my mind having a difficult time putting my thoughts into coherent sentences. My fingers want to type out all of the hysterical moments of this show, but I don’t want to ruin all of the fun for you. As a Doctor Who fan, I found this show to be so funny that I had tears streaming down my face on several occasions. The fact that I am a Doctor Who fan helped to make this show particularly funny, but even if you don’t watch the wildly popular television series, there are enough jokes that you will still enjoy it.

The Off Broadway Theatre (OBT) was founded in 1994 by Eric and Sandy Jensen, and has been bringing both well-known and original comedies to Utah ever since. Dr. U is an original play written by director Mike Brown and Logan Rogan, who stars as The Doctor. I hope that this show will come back repeatedly to The OBT, because it is a fabulous homage to an iconic and beloved television show.

The first character we meet is Karen, played by April Tritchler, one of The Doctor’s companions, who announces the show and gets the audience involved in the process. She had anyone celebrating a birthday come up so the audience could sing to them, and then proceeded to instruct us in how to properly cheer on the heroes, and boo and hiss the villains, melodrama style. The Doctor, played by Logan Rogan, and Billie, played by Kylee Ogzewalla, began the adventure on an alien planet that has never before been visited by humans. Unfortunately, they’ve actually just crashed the pre-show announcement and find themselves on a stage in Utah. Most of the show takes place in Utah, since The Doctor’s nemesis The Master, played by Clarence Strohn, has built his evil lair in Magna, but does take a few side trips to the planet Barro, and to Pennsylvania where Ben Franklin, played by Eric Jensen, joins the fun. The Master’s evil plan is to abolish daylight savings time (hence Ben Franklin) making it so that the Doctor always arrives one hour late, as opposed to his usual “just in time to save the day” arrivals. A twist of fate introduces us to the next Doctor, played by Zach Reynolds, and as we watch this zany cast of characters work to the save the day, you can’t help but cheer and boo in the appropriate places. The cast is rounded out by Captain Jack and The Harkness, played by Jake Miskimins, Justin Bradley, and Devin O’Donnell, and the ensemble, Jason Unruh, Amanda Gibson, and Chase Dickerson. Scene changes were accompanied by hysterical renditions of popular songs, and some not so popular ones, sung from the aisles, the stairs leading on and off stage, sometimes actually onstage by Captain Jack and The Harkness. There were times I wasn’t sure if the mistakes they made were intentional or not, but it made their interludes that much funnier. The ensemble was responsible for creating several different characters throughout the show, including some well-known time travelers that make appearances at various times. They really embraced the silliness of the characters they had to portray, and made the show fantastic.

The costuming (by Eric Jensen, CLint Lehmberg, Robert Reins, and Janice Jensen) fit the genre well for the most part. I did have a challenging time with the Master’s main costume. Although I eventually recognized it as supposedly a priest’s black robes, I still found myself wondering why the antagonist of the show was wandering around in a little black dress. All of the prolific resident Who aliens make a visit to the stage with their own Dr. U twists. My favorite costumes of the show had to be the Derelicts costume, which were a fabulous re-creation of Daleks, including the plunger and egg whisk.

 

The sets (by Eric Jensen, Clint Lehmberg and Robert Reins) were extremely well done, particularly the inside of the TARDY, which we get to see on a few occasions. The stage seems to be a bit on the smaller side, but the cast used the space well to move us through the different locations and keep us interested. I could tell that this cast got along well off-stage, as the chemistry onstage was really great. Several of the members of this cast are part of the OBT’s Laughing Stock Improv, and this camaraderie was definitely a plus in this show. There were many times that you could tell something wasn’t going quite the way it was supposed to (it was opening night, after all), but the actors all covered it well and simply incorporated the mishap into the action we were seeing and it worked well. I think this is the type of show that will be a bit different every time it’s performed, which really enhanced the show for me.

There are a few musical numbers in this show, and although the singing and dancing (choreography by Kylee Wood) could have been more polished, it didn’t detract from the show at all. In addition to the numbers we get from Captain Jack and The Harkness, there are few showstoppers performed by the whole cast, and a fun little ditty about going to the lobby at intermission. This show is clean and funny, and could be appropriate for pretty much any age. I don’t know if younger children would really get the humor, but it’s entertaining enough that they probably won’t get bored.

If you are a Doctor Who fan, do not miss this show. If you aren’t a Doctor Who fan, do not miss this show. If you are looking for a great time and a good laugh, do not miss this show. It’s been a very long time since I have laughed this hard, and not only will I be going back at least one more time to see this, my self-proclaimed Whovian teenage daughter is getting a group of friends together to go again as well. One of the other nice details is the OBT is right across from a Trax station, so driving isn’t an issue, either.

Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for students (13+), seniors (65+), and military, and $10 for children (2-12), and all Monday and matinee shows are $10. You purchase tickets, find parking info, and much more at the theaters website, theobt.org.

The Off Broadway Theatre presents Dr. U by Mike Brown and Logan Rogan

Off Broadway Theatre, 272 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

February 8-March 16 on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 7:30 PM and a matinee performance at 2:00 PM on March 2.

Tickets: $10, $12, and $16

Call: 801-355-4628

 theobt.org