Who Should See The Owl Girl? Everyone.

owl girl

By Lorrinda Christensen

What happens when two families in an unnamed Middle Eastern country who both have keys to the same house try to live in it together? The Owl Girl is a story of two families living in a time of unrest: one displaced, removed from their home and now living in a camp, the other, living in the house formerly occupied by the first family. The fathers (Brad Davis and Torin Scoffield) play chess; the mothers (Kalika Rose and Kate Lanphier) cook together; the lovers (Napsugar Hegedus and Ibraim Quraishi) dream of a better future; and war mad children (Breean Taylor and Laura Witkop) play doctor and murder.

When I decided to go see The Owl Girl at the University of Utah’s Studio 115, I had no idea what to expect. I tried to research the play and find out more, but found little in reference to the show. It is fairly new – I could only find one other instance of it being performed anywhere – and from what I later found out, has only been staged readings, not performed. It is a thought-provoking play about these two families: both very different, yet very much the same.

Most of the play takes place in the house, which uses the theatre space very efficiently. The set is divided into three levels: the roof, a bedroom, and the kitchen/family area of the home. I really enjoyed how set designer Haley Nowicki used this space. There were minimal pieces being moved on and off between scenes, if any, which made things flow very well. The costume design by Sarah Rogers was timeless. I particularly liked that, along with the lack of mention of a specific time period for setting the play, the costumes could have been from a wide time range as well, thus making the show as relevant today as twenty years ago.

Director Alexandra Harbold did an exceptional job telling the story of these two families and their struggles to get past their differences and learn to get along and ultimately become their own kind of family.

The entire cast played their parts with passion and conviction and kept me wondering what was going to happen next. Breean Taylor, who played Capi the younger brother of Stel, kept up her energy the entire show spinning around in circles, shooting other family members while playing war and dying dramatically on the floor. That, combined with Laura Witkop’s prowling and pouncing across the stage as Anja, who believed she was an array of different animals including a lion, a leopard and an owl, made the play more entertaining and brought a bit of humor to an otherwise austere subject.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show and would recommend it for anyone who enjoys thought provoking and intense theatre. The Owl Girl runs through Sunday November 2, and has a talkback session with the cast following the performance on Oct. 31.

At 7:30 PM

240 South 1500 East, Room 206, Salt Lake City, Utah 84020

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Tickets available now at Kingsbury Hall www.kingtix.com or by calling 801-581-7100.
General: $18
UofU Faculty, Staff, Seniors age 60 and over: $15
Military and their immediate families: $15
U of U students FREE with Arts Pass
Other students: $8.50
For group discounts of 20 or more call 801-581-6406.

Covey’s Much Ado About Zombies is Steampunk, Spooky Shakespeare!

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By Chance Young

As my friend Shelby and I pulled into the parking lot of the Covey Center for the Arts to attend Much Ado About Zombies, an adapted version of Shakespeare’s classic Much Ado About Nothing directed by Eric Samuelsen, I was unsure of what to expect. Being unfamiliar with the full story of Much Ado About Nothing, I was unsure what this would be. Shakespeare’s original Much Ado is a romantic comedy involving the story of Beatrice and Benedict, two headstrong, brilliant people who are duped into loving each other by their friends. They are joined by Claudio and Hero, whose young, unstable love is broken (by infection!) and then reconciled. I sat in my seat quietly hoping that the original story would not be lost amongst the gears and cogs and various pipes that sprung out as I observed the set, delighted at the idea of a steampunk setting. For those of you who are unfamiliar, steampunk is a genre of science fiction that is set in the Industrial Revolution. I was very impressed by this choice of setting, as it allowed Samuelsen to bring very modern nuances and highly original ideas to the Shakespearean text and language.

The inventive, appropriate setting, provided by Daniel James’ amazing stage design greets patrons with huge (and I mean HUGE) gears and pipes all over the stage. The set is further enhanced with the ingenious lighting design by Pam Davis. This stage is stunning.

I must commend the actors on a fantastic job in contributing to the overall idea of a steampunk zombified world. I personally enjoyed the portrayal of both Benedict by Barrett Odgen and Bronx-accented Friar Francis by Archie Chrisanto. I felt as though they were able to really capture the attention of the audience and keep us highly engaged in the idea of a steampunk zombie world without breaking the concept and idea of the Shakespearean work and language. I also enjoyed the portrayal of Hero by Emily Siwachok, especially as an Undead. Her sweetheart, Claudio, played by Carter Peterson, is a zombie almost from the beginning and his growls and his wild dance to “Cry No More” are hilarious. Ashley Lammi as the strong but loving Beatrice is stupendous.

As a whole, I feel that the cast did an excellent job of character, even when it was intermission, which helped me stay submersed in the concept of the world and the idea of the infection spreading throughout the characters as the story developed. Even between scenes, the actors stayed in character as zombies as they shuffled on and off carrying set pieces on and off.

The musical aspect of the performance greatly enhanced the overall ambiance of the piece; however, I feel that in a few areas it dragged out slightly, which sometimes drew me out of the story more than added to it. The dance numbers were great and the last number (to Wide Awake) especially was an edgy, fun close to the show.

The costume design is to be absolutely applauded, as Lisa Kuhni did a fantastic job in dressing the performers to fit the world of steampunk. The detail she provides is a delight. Everyone has their “thing”, which helps to identify who goes with who, and everyone has a rather cool, edgy look. Make up also stands out. In all theater productions, make up is important, but Ogden’s gold glittered face in Act Two certainly helps us see his transformation from dedicated bachelor to loopy lover. The zombie make up is great—not too gory, and the black light effect is amazing.

Further, as a rather small but important note, you should go to the show just to see their amazingly spooky programs. Fantastic!

I would recommend this to anyone as it was a grand performance that I would gladly see over and over again. Well done and highly appropriate for this all Hallows Eve season.

Note: Though this show has zombies, there is no gore except for one rather bloody-faced zombie. I would recommend this show to kids maybe 11 or older if they are able to follow the Shakespearean text. The show runs about two hours, so bring children who can sit still that long. There is plenty to see, so kids who like acting will probably love this show.

Covey Center of the Arts presents Much Ado About Zombies
Written by William Shakespeare, Adapted by Becky Baker
425 W Center St, Provo, UT
Monday, October 27 -Saturday, November 1, 2014 @7:30 PM
Tickets: $16, $14
Call: 801-852-6000

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UVU’s OTHER DESERT CITIES Should be Seen by Everyone in Our City

By MH Thomas

OTHER DESERT CITIES is a play written by Jon Robin Baitz, originally produced by Lincoln Center Theater, New York in 2010 and won the Outer Critics Circle Award in 2011. It is an interesting title—and as you watch the show, you will soon discover where that title came from.

I can never say enough about how UVU theatre has progressed over the years. Their program has become truly impressive. This production is the senior project of student, Jason R. Evans, who directed and designed this version and  is to be congratulated on his efforts. This is a heart-wrenching play filled with powerful performances.

As this is a student run production, the set is very spartan. There are several chairs arranged to suggest various seating areas in a family living room in Palm Springs. A table with glasses and bottles of alcohol, which is visited often in the course of the evening, are the other set pieces.

As the story begins, the two adult children of a former actor turned politician/ambassador have come home for the Christmas season and are visiting pleasantly with their parents. The mood is fairly light in the beginning. Polly (Megan Ann Bisbee) and Lyman (Collin Thomas) Wyeth joke with their children Brooke (Abigail Snarr) and Trip (Kristopher Miles.) The mood becomes a bit tense as they discuss Brooke’s soon-to-be published book. Aunt Silda, Polly’s sister and a recovering alcoholic, performed by Melissa Anderson Brinkerhoff, appears a bit later and distracts everyone for a short time.

Brooke Wyeth seems reluctant to reveal the topic of her new book to her family. When she does, emotions run high and the tension in the theatre is palpable. These actors do an excellent job of portraying the gamut of emotions. Polly is very driven to maintain a certain appearance within the community–she is all about appearances. Megan Ann Bisbee’s performance left me with little love for this anger-filled character. Still, there is a sense that there is something going on behind her hard exterior. Collin Thomas does a fine job of displaying Lyman’s frustration, confusion and despair over the situation that the book has dredged up, and the issues they must all confront and examine after many years. There is a tenderness between father and daughter that comes through in their performances. Even as he is upset, it is clear that he is a caring parent. Kristopher Miles plays the part of Trip with the unsure cockiness of someone who is used to being in control and feels caught in the middle. He is goofy, serious and unsettled all in the same moment. Melissa Anderson Brinkerhoff’s Silda is in a fog much of the time—but sparks of wisdom and compassion break through. The performance could seem forced but is done in a very natural way.

The second act is where everything comes to a head. The high emotions of the first act run even higher. The pain of every member of the family is apparent in the performance of each actor. Secrets are revealed as they all struggle to understand the others’ insistence that their wishes and desires concerning the book are the appropriate ones. Lyman reaches a breaking point and the biggest secret is revealed.

As the play concludes, Abigail Snarr shows versatility in the way her character is portrayed from beginning to end. It is clear that Brooke has been affected by the events of that Christmas season when so much was revealed within this troubled family

This show has a lot of messages to present about family life and about life in general. You will not leave this play untouched by the emotions portrayed by these talented actors. Well done, Jason R. Evans. The show was so well cast and the actors directed in a way that truly brought this production to life. OTHER DESERT CITIES only plays for three days. Don’t miss it, if it is at all possible for you to attend.

Utah Valley University – Gunther Trades Building – ExBox Theatre (6th Floor)

Directions: Park in either lot # M23 or M24 (see UVU Parking Map). Enter door located North of the Noorda Theatre (see Gunther Trades Map), the entrance is by rooms 635 & 636; Turn Left at the end of the Hallway. The ExBox Theatre will be on your left (Room 627). Look for signs showing you the way as well as on the entrance door.

UVU Parking Map: http://www.uvu.edu/parking/permits/maps.html

UVU Gunther Trades Building Map:

FOR VISITORS: You will not be ticketed if you park in the above lots. The parking is open to the public after 5. If you do get ticketed, take the ticket to Parking Services and make them aware that you were attending an event in the GT Building.

This show has some profanity, so young children and tweens are probably not appropriate audience members.

Thursday, October 23, Friday, October 24, 2014, & Saturday, October 25, 2014 @ 7:30 p.m. – Doors open @ 7:00 p.m.

Free Admission. Seating is very limited. Arrive early!

Written by Jon Robin Baitz

Directed by Jason Evans
Starring: Megan Ann Bisbee, Collin Thomas, Kristopher Miles, Abigail Snarr & Melissa Anderson Brinkerhoff

Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s Titus Andronicus is a Bloody Good Time

By Larisa Hicken

If you’re looking for a way to get into the Halloween spirit, there’s no better way than attending Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s presentation of Titus Andronicus at the Castle Ampitheater in Provo.  Just follow the dark winding path up behind the State Mental Hospital.

Titus Andronicus is certainly not Shakespeare’s most well-known play and for good reason – the plot revolves around a whole lot of killing, rape, and most importantly, revenge.  And that’s about it.

I have a bit of a weak stomach, so I was nervous when I read the teaser on their website: “You know you’re dying for some blood, sweat, and tears to spray, drip, and splatter on you and your date.”  Um… what?

If you’re unfamiliar with the Grassroots Shakespeare Company, they began five years ago with the mission to perform Shakespeare plays in the original format of Shakespeare’s day. That means the actors only rehearse for a couple of weeks, the set is basically a simple platform, and costume pieces are whatever the actors can throw together in that time.  In fact, they were still screwing in set pieces five minutes before start time.

In true Shakespeare tradition, the Grassroots players chose to play to their audience, who they obviously understand very well.  They did indeed splatter and splash their way through each grisly murder in a delightful dark comedy style.  Instead of gagging, the audience was laughing and groaning as cast members were, well, dismembered.  I never could have imagined how much fun I would have with such a gruesome show!

I’m sure the “groundlings” who stood at the front of the stage felt like they were an integral part of the show.  I certainly enjoyed watching them all jump back while I sipped my hot cocoa in my super comfy lawn chair toward the back row.

The show is accompanied by a live band. There were a few moments where I wasn’t sure why they were still playing since it was a bit difficult to hear what the actors were saying – mainly in scenes where there wasn’t a lot of action and the plot was simply being explained. But overall the band really added to the intensity of some scenes and the absurdity of others.

Mark Oram plays the title role of Titus Andronicus and he is an absolute delight.  I kept thinking to myself, “I’m watching a true master of the Shakespearean stage.”  He’s one of those actors that you figure must have been born burping in Elizabethan cadences and pooping out sonnets because he performs Shakespeare so naturally.  It came as no surprise to find out he was one of the founding members of the Grassroots company.

Fellow Grassroots founder Alex Ungerman plays Titus’ son Lucius Andronicus, the surprise hero of the show.  His character was well-developed and the interplay between Oram and Ungerman was one of the best parts of the show.

Andy Hansen was thrown off a bit by a few dropped lines at the beginning, but once he found his rhythm again, he gave a solid performance as Titus’ brother Marcus Andronicus.  Claire Wilson is a dynamic actress who gave the character of Lavinia more depth than most of the other characters.  Her love relationship with Nick Gledhill as Bassianus seemed comfortable and natural.

Shawn Saunders plays the villainous role of Aaron the Moor with so much raw vehemence and delight that I was a bit nervous passing him on my way out of the ampitheater after the show.  Aaron’s lover and evil cohort, Tamara the Goth, was played by Jessamyn Svensson.  She was terrific in her interactions with the groundlings as they booed and hissed at her when she came on stage.

Jessica Myer is double cast as Tamara and during the show I watched, she played the nurse.  Without too much of a spoiler (because everyone dies in this show) she gave a stellar performance in her death scene.

The two evil buffoons Chiron and Demitrius (Tamara’s sons) were played by AJ Taysom and Eric Geels.  Their physical humor and bawdy gestures were highly entertaining and the audience loved to hate them.

My favorite character of the night was Saturninus played by Nick Groussaint.  Groussaint was simply awesome as he whined and pouted his way through the night.  At several points in the show, I was wishing for some rotten fruit to throw at him.

Don’t wait another minute.  Grab a group of your rowdiest friends and buy tickets online to save a few bucks.  Put on your rain poncho and get over to see this show before Halloween.  Your friends will thank you – after they wipe the entrails out of their hair.

Titus Andronicus
plays October 17 – November 1, 2014, 8:00 PM at the Castle Amphitheatre, 1300 East Center Street, Provo Utah.

Ticket Prices
October 17 – 27, 2014
$10 Yard Tickets (standing)
$18 Gallery Tickets
October 30 – November 1, 2014
$12 Yard Tickets (standing)
$20 Gallery Tickets
Discount tickets available online.

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An Aside…
Before the show started, we were lucky enough to hear the band Echo Era.  They have a fun alternative sound with strong roots in jazz.  Each band member played a dizzying number of instruments and their original songs were very cool.  I was delighted to find out that you can download some of their music on their website!

The Scottish Play (aka Macbeth) at the Echo is Superb


By Shannon Eden

Currently playing at the Echo Theater in Provo is Macbeth. Gasp! Yes, I said it instead of the traditional: “The Scottish Play.” Hopefully, the curse will stave itself until after I have finished my review. Set in historic Scotland, we meet General Macbeth and his comrade Banquo, newly returned from a victorious battle. On the road, they stumble upon three witches who prophesy the rise of Macbeth to Thane (Scottish nobility) and then to the throne, and that the posterity of Banquo will beget a line of kings. Such lofty aspirations are merely the stuff of fantasy, right? So think the duo until half of the prediction comes true. Here is where the cankering tooth of ‘what if’ sets in. A dead king, a murdered friend, a reign of tyranny follow, and the genius of Shakespeare takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of aspirations, greed, madness, and the ultimate question of whether destiny is a fixed sentence. Or do we, in fact, seal our own fate with a bloody dagger?

I am a newcomer to Macbeth. I love me some Shakespeare, but I have always gravitated to the comedies more so than the tragedies. Everyone getting married at the end sends you home a little lighter than everyone dying at the end, after all. So understandably, I was a little nervous for my first viewing of this supposedly cursed show. The Bard did not write simply, and his plays are not simply understood by the unprepared observer. Would I be one of those hapless patrons who is washed over and tumbled about in the endless sea of sheer language and poetry? Would I be the only one sitting in the audience, eyes wide with confusion, like a deer caught in vernacular headlights? A lot of that depended on the delivery. And I applaud the cast of this production. I understood what you were talking about. Consider your greatest review hurdle cleared.

The Echo Theater is located on a quiet corner just off of the main hub of downtown Provo, in a beautifully historic building. The stage itself is a good size for up-close-and-personal theater. There is a general audience area with chairs also placed up above the stage on a mezzanine and more on the sides of the stage itself. I found the layout a little odd, to be honest. I appreciate that often Shakespeare is enjoyed ‘in the round’ and this was a valiant attempt for the space, but oftentimes, the set pieces blocked the view of some of the actors during the performance. It detracted when all I could hear was a voice behind a black wall. Though this may not be a word heard often in a review about Macbeth, there were some fun interactions that happened with those sitting in the stage seats that added to the production. So, I guess it’s a bit of give and take with the seating arrangement. I will say, if you don’t want to be subjected to a moment or two of discomfort and complete disregard for the fourth wall, don’t sit in those seats. But if you’re up for a little squirming and a good giggle after, take a chance on something out of the box. The set, designed by Jeffrey Blake, was as simple as you can get, but very versatile and functional. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a few doors, some black paint and a lot of imagination.

The Echo’s production is directed by Kris Jennings, a woman who clearly knows her Shakespeare. It says so in her bio. But, the truth of that really comes from the way her actors perform Shakespeare. There are times, I will be the first to admit, that I got lost in all those very pretty words. But I always found my way back to the story because the actors themselves knew what they were saying. They were committed to their story and they pulled you along with conviction. Our first glimpse of the cast comes in the form of the three witches – the Weird Sisters, aptly named, played by Mandy Lyons, Esther Pielstick, and Laura Randall. They are pretty darn weird. You’ve probably been quoting them you’re whole life and never known it: “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” Though I loved the eerie feeling that the trio brought, there were a few parts that I felt their antics ran long and lost my interest. I loved the casting choice made by Jennings to have a succession of age in the sisters giving the range of older, middle-aged, and young. I have to applaud Randall who, being the youngest of the cast, tackled a very heavy role and did so beautifully. There was something truly disturbing about her innocently creepy portrayal of the littlest witch that gives you the chills.

Macbeth, played by Ben Isaacs, and Banquo, played by Josh Brown, follow the witches to the stage and I enjoyed both of their performances. They had an easiness about their characters to start with. Isaacs’ portrayal of Macbeth was strong and his transition to madness was a convincing one. It was interesting to watch the change happen in his character. His speech about the dagger, just prior to his murdering the king, displayed a Macbeth almost hypnotized by the desire to fulfill the witches’ prophetic words. His gradual slipping of sanity was managed well. I felt that Brown did an excellent job of providing a contrasting character in Banquo to that of Macbeth, showing the audience what Macbeth could have been had he not allowed his ‘vaulting ambition’ to overcome him.

Duncan, the king of Scotland, played by Joel Appelgate, was voiced well, with a strong, deep tone, but I wished Appelgate had had the same strength in his stance and mannerisms as the two leads.

Mallory Isaacs (Ben’s real life wife) as Lady Macbeth demanded your attention onstage. Isaacs showed a very manipulative Lady Macbeth, ever fluctuating between whichever personality or tactic might win her objective. I especially appreciated her madness-induced sleep walk – very well done. Although, I can’t help but wonder at what made our heartless heroine suddenly feel a twinge of guilt heavy enough to cause the leap into insanity? A true tragedy should have ended with everyone else dying and the rest of the world having to live under the rule of the treacherous Lady Macbeth. Did I just hear Bill Shakespeare roll over in his grave?

Back to the players. Jacob Chapman as Porter, Murderer, Seyton, Soldier, Apparition – this guy can do Shakespeare. I don’t know how else to put it. Every character Chapman portrayed was wonderful. My favorite scene of the entire show was during the incessant knocking. Perhaps I just needed a smile in the midst of the madness, but his mannerisms and control of his lines were down-to-earth and conversed instead of delivered. Every. Time.

Amos Omer (Macduff, Sergant, Second Murderer) and Bryn Curry (Lady Macduff, Messenger, Lennox) rounded out the cast. Omer was a little overpowering as Macduff at times, but gave a strong overall performance. As did Curry, though I struggled to understand some of her lines simply because her diction wasn’t as strong and sometimes she spoke too quickly.

The biggest problem I had with the production was in the costuming, done by Cherie Julander. The actors were outfitted completely in gray, and – though it gave a dreariness to the feel of the show – I couldn’t find any other connecting factor to the characters, one to another, except for the color itself. There was no definition of time or place and gave a sense that, as long as it’s gray, you can wear it. With the cast being small, many actors portrayed multiple characters, and the monochromatic scheme also made differentiation between each character shift difficult. I did love the witches’ costumes, but wished they had draped to the floor instead of only to the waist. The trio was such an entity in and of themselves, I wanted to keep the illusion that they couldn’t be anything but the Weird Sisters. Seeing their pants and shoes on other characters caused a disconnect in the continuity.

For a first time exposure, I was pleasantly surprised with my experience at the Echo Theater. If you too have never seen Macbeth, don’t be afraid to broaden your brain a bit. Read a synopsis before you go as the program doesn’t lend much help, so you’ll want to have some sort of footing in order to really enjoy the show. (A good source for this is No Fear Shakespeare.) With a little understanding, you will be free to revel in the murderous tale of Macbeth, who should have read the fortune I got at dinner just before the show: Don’t trouble trouble ’til trouble troubles you. Happy Haunting!

Oct 2 at 7:30pm to Nov 1 at 9:30pm
15 N 100 East, Provo 84606