By Susan Froyd
By Byron Graham
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davies
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Bree Davies
By Susan Froyd
By Kate Gibbons
Escanaba: 1922. The play opens as Alphonse Soady puts the finishing touches to his cabin in the woods. He's struggling to hold the door in place while hammering in the hinges. Will he hit his thumb? Of course he will. That door is important both literally and symbolically. It can keep out scary things, allow entry to the occasional miracle, and also vent the place of bad memories. The first entrant is James Negamanee, who hurls himself through the unfinished barrier in flight from a bear. Negamanee is obnoxious, posturing, fast-talking, irrepressible and full of unwanted advice, and Soady can't get rid of him. There are farts and songs, as well as an eating contest of sorts and a poem recited by Soady during an unexpectedly sentimental moment. The dead eventually intrude: Soady's father appears, wounded in the Civil War and helped along by Black Jack, a runaway slave. "Do not question those things that occur around me," pronounces a grandiose Negamanee. "I am a man of luck and inspiration." Director John Ashton has a knack for creating a kind of grubby, relaxed and welcoming reality, and he does that here with the help of Noah Lee Jordan as a gentle and effective Black Jack, as well as two terrific actors in the main roles: James Nantz as Soady and William Hahn as Negamanee. These aren't realistic characters, but in this self-enclosed world — drawn with such loving detail by actor/playwright Jeff Daniels — they feel real, and the actors don't make the mistake of turning them into caricatures. Presented by the Aurora Fox through December 18, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora, 303-739-1970, www.aurorafox.org. Reviewed December 1.
Kafka on Ice. Franz Kafka is known for his despairing view of life, and Buntport Theater manages to somehow honor this — and to respect his writing and vision — in Kafka on Ice, a show that ranges from wryly humorous to belly-laugh funny. They take on some artistic and philosophical issues as well: family discord, the relationship between art and life, the way a work of art acquires new meanings and forms over time — like this goofy production itself, which was created in 2004. In the play, as he did in life, Kafka asks his literary executor, Max Brod, to burn all his works after his death. Brod does no such thing. And in betraying his friend, he makes him immortal. The script combines events from the author's life with incidents in his famous novella Metamorphosis (you know, the one that begins, "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect"). The production is set on a large sheet of artificial ice, and Erin Rollman, Hannah Duggan, Evan Weissman, Erik Edborg and Brian Colonna play all the characters — from the women Kafka loved to his dictatorial father to a schoolteacher talking about symbolism to famed novelist-entomologist Vladimir Nabokov, who did his best to figure out exactly what kind of insect Gregor had become. There's beautiful stuff and thoughtful stuff and funny stuff all mixed together, and somehow it works as both a literary tribute and a giddy, joyful evening. Presented by Buntport Theater Company through December 17, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com. Reviewed (on the web) December 2.
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