Reviewed: Misery, Waiting for Godot and The Drowning Girls Closing This Weekend

Timothy McCracken and Sam Gregory in Waiting for Godot.
Timothy McCracken and Sam Gregory in Waiting for Godot.
M. Gale Photography 2017

This weekend is your last chance to see The Drowning Girls and Waiting for Godot at the Arvada Center, as well as Misery at the Edge. Keep reading for mini-reviews of those shows, as well as two more on local stages.

Jessica Robblee in The Drowning Girls.
Jessica Robblee in The Drowning Girls.
Matthew Gale Photography

The Drowning Girls. Take the Edwardians’ morbid fascination with death, murder and the macabre, along with what we know about the powerless and constrained lives of middle-class women (particularly unmarried women) early in the twentieth century, then add black humor, a bit of woman-to-woman celebration, some mockery and touches of real sorrow, and you have The Drowning Girls. George Joseph Smith has a prominent place on the roster of England’s luridly famous murderers. He began with embezzlement and multiple bigamous marriages, entered under false names; ultimately, three of the women became victims in what came to be called the “bride in the bath murders.” Having taken control of their finances, Smith would seize each victim by her feet and pull her head underwater in one swift, relentless gesture. Grim stuff, but The Drowning Girls isn’t grim. It begins with lighthearted waltz music, and then legs and arms rise from three filled bathtubs on the stage as the drowned women engage in a brief, hilarious parody of synchronized swimming. They emerge laughing to tell us their stories, including how they met Smith and why they were drawn to him. Each actor takes on several roles in the narrative – from a landlady to a concerned mother to a doctor – always returning to her own role and her own brimming bathtub. The script is overtly feminist in the satiric tone it takes to the mores of the day, but it’s also more subtly so in the way it shows these one-time victims coming together in mutual comfort, shared strength and understanding in the strange, watery afterlife they inhabit. While Smith’s actual victims may be mouldering in their graves, the women we see right in front of us are full of life, even joy. They haven’t forgotten what happened, but they’ll be damned if they let murder define them. Presented by the Arvada Center Black Box Theater through May 21, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Read the review of The Drowning Girls.

Randy Moore (left) and Erik Sandvold in The Luckiest People.
Randy Moore (left) and Erik Sandvold in The Luckiest People.
Michael Ensminger

The Luckiest People. Oscar is the elderly father at the heart of Meridith Friedman’s The Luckiest People. His beloved wife, Dorothy, has recently died, and he is in an assisted-living facility, resolutely refusing to engage in any activities and making endless demands on his middle-aged son, Richard. The demand that shocks Richard most is Oscar’s insistence that he’ll soon be moving into the apartment that Richard shares with his good-natured lover, David. Richard and David are in the process of adopting a six-year-old boy, and they have no idea how they’ll be able to accommodate this querulous, elderly second child. Richard’s sister, Laura, lives with her Chinese husband in Shanghai and is visiting California only now that their mother’s funeral is safely over. You can see Oscar’s harmful influence in Richard’s problems communicating with David, as well as in Laura’s ambivalence toward her husband and child, a little boy she both loves and resents. The Luckiest People focuses more on relationships than action. Although there are a couple of furious blow-ups that erupt almost without warning, most of the evening is filled with apparently mundane talk — of sitting shiva and how to conduct a minyan, what kind of bagels everyone wants. But while this is an essentially quiet play, it’s never boring. Beneath the surface lie depth charges primed to explode later in your mind, because Friedman is dealing with questions about life and death, the ways we find to live with each, and the profound nature of love itself. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through June 17, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, curioustheatre.org. Read the review of The Luckiest People.

Emma Messenger and Rick Yaconis in Misery.
Emma Messenger and Rick Yaconis in Misery.
Rachel D. Graham/RDG Photography

Misery. A man lies in bed, clearly in pain. His first words to the woman standing at the foot of the bed are that it was a miracle she found him. She agrees: “Lucky for you I did.” We learn that he is Paul Sheldon, a writer of Victorian romance novels starring a central character called Misery Chastain, and she is Annie Wilkes, a former nurse. His car skidded off the road while he was driving through the snowy Colorado mountains; she came upon the wreck, pried him out of the car and brought him to her isolated home, where she inexpertly set his shattered legs and gave him a drug for pain. She's thrilled to have her favorite author on the premises, and more than anxious to read his latest book, Misery’s Child, which is about to hit the bookstores. “I’m your number-one fan,” she croons. William Goldman’s Misery is a dramatization of Stephen King’s horror novel, and the Edge Theater gives the story a horrifying intimacy: The space is so small that you can see every shade of feeling pass over the actors’ faces, even smell the food when Annie sets down a celebratory dinner in front of Paul: meatloaf made according to her mother’s recipe, with fresh tomatoes and just a touch of Spam for flavor. It’s a big plus that the two actors are so good: Rick Yaconis takes us through all of Paul’s changes, as Emma Messenger’s Annie reveals more and more of her madness. At first, drug-dazed and weakened, he finds her nurturing comforting, though some of what she says puzzles him. He’s startled by her anger when she reads the manuscript he had with him and discovers that it’s not another Misery Chastain novel, but that’s nothing compared to the storm that erupts when she eventually gets her hands on Misery's Child and discovers that the protagonist dies at the end. This production serves in part as an homage to the old horror movies. Dramatic moments are punctuated by flashes of lightning and surges of thunder so loud you half expect Bette Davis or Joan Crawford to walk onto the stage. But none of these ironic effects detracts from the tension. I’d seen Misery before and half remembered what happens, but the ending still delivered that moment of pleasurable shock, followed by a lingering creepiness. Presented by the Edge Theater through May 21, 1560 Teller Street, Lakewood, 303-232-0363, theedgetheater.com. Read the review of Misery.

Keep reading for more reviews.



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