Reviewed: Two Shows Closing This Week, While God Goes On

Theater companies are packing up the tinsel and fake snow for another season, but there are still a few more options on local stages. Keep reading for capsule reviews of productions around town, including one stunner that closes this weekend: The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

A View From the Bridge. Edge Theater Company's production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge doesn’t go for electrifying drama or make a point of foreshadowing the play’s incipient violence in the naturalistic early scenes. But this in no way diminishes the involving nature of the experience, the shock of the climax or the sorrow of the ending; in some ways, it enhances these things. Eddie Carbone is a Brooklyn longshoreman, a hardworking stiff who’s created a stable life for his family: his wife, Beatrice, and Catherine, the seventeen-year-old daughter of Beatrice’s dead sister, whom they have raised together. At first the relationship between Eddie and Catherine is playful and affectionate. But when he allows two Italian immigrants, his cousins Marco and Rodolpho, into his home and Catherine begins to fall in love with Rodolpho, long-submerged feelings begin to surface. We realize that Eddie loves Catherine. While immigration drives much of the plot – we hear about the destitution in Italy and Marco’s determination to send money home to his wife and hungry children – this isn’t primarily a story about newcomers adjusting to life in a strange country. The emotional heart of the play is Eddie’s struggle with loyalty and betrayal. The easy flow of the dialogue, the vivid characterizations and the compelling plot all testify to Miller’s brilliance, and John Ashton has directed a thoughtful, layered production that lives in the small, telling details: Beatrice at the table prepping vegetables or worrying about whether she has enough food for the new arrivals, Catherine’s dutiful submission beginning to unravel as a world of color and light calls to her, Eddie sinking wearily into his chair after a day of work. Presented by Edge through December 31, 1560 Teller Street, Lakewood, 303-232-0363, Read the full review of A View From the Bridge.

Act of God. God has appeared to us in the person of Broadway and television actor Wesley Taylor (Smash, The Good Wife). In this ninety-minute script by David Javerbaum, winner of multiple Emmys for his work on The Daily Show, God explains that he’s “a jealous, petty, sexist, racist, mass-murdering narcissist” — something we could have guessed simply from the state of the world — who has come back to edit the Ten Commandments because they’re out of date. With God are his two favorite angels: Gabriel, who actually seems quite a bit more compassionate and ethical than the deity himself, and Michael, who’s prone to asking difficult questions, and whom God rapidly silences and punishes. Lounging in dazzling white robes on a dazzling white sofa in an elegantly dazzling room, God acquaints us with his thinking. He doesn’t have much patience with football players’ constant evocations of his name, and he mocks evolution deniers — well, sort of. It’s possible he actually meant this: “I planted all of it.... In Me all things are fakeable. I molded the fossils; I modified the DNA; I specialized the finch beaks; heck, I booked Darwin’s cruise.” It does turn out that he has no problem with homosexuality, and the evangelical insistence that he created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, is exactly backward. Steve did precede Eve — Eve was created later through surgical intervention. But assume an enlightened God who’ll rightfully ridicule right-wing hyper-religiosity while honoring compassionate politics and dropping the occasional genuinely enlightening truth. This is also a God who enjoyed watching Abraham’s terrible sorrow when he was ordered to kill his first-born son, Isaac; finds the Book of Job insanely funny; and cannot comprehend his own son Jesus’s desire to redeem humankind. God sort of gets away with all this because his earthly manifestation — that is, Wesley Taylor — is so charming and has such magnificent abs. But if you’re hoping for a moment of redemption, a Hallmark Card aphorism, a realization that Jesus had it right and suffering is terribly wrong, don’t hold your breath. Presented through March 12 at the Garner Galleria, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, Read the full review of Act of God here.

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. This production makes your head swim with the sweep and majesty of the chorus’s offerings, the sheer beauty of the songs, the many questions about changes to the original 1935 folk opera (titled simply Porgy and Bess) wrought by Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and composer Dierdre L. Murray five years ago. This extraordinary piece of music already had a rich history; it runs like a thread through the racial struggles of the twentieth — and now 21st — century, illustrating changing attitudes and ideals. Porgy and Bess takes place in South Carolina’s Catfish Row, a deeply impoverished but lively and self-contained world by the treacherous sea. Parks and Murray pared it down with the intention of creating a work that was more musical theater than opera, and more available to the general public. The plot remains pretty much the same. Powerful stevedore Crown is Bess’s lover; when he gets into a fight over a game of craps and kills his opponent, he flees, telling Bess he’ll be back for her when the furor dies down. No one in Catfish Row will take Bess in until she knocks on the door of the crippled beggar, Porgy. He gives her shelter, and she learns to love him for his kindness and decency. But she’s still forcefully attracted to Crown and the wild life of drugs and freedom he represents. The casting of this production is wonderfully varied. Leonard Barrett gives us a more withdrawn Porgy than we might have expected, a man who was born crippled and thought himself destined to a life of loneliness; when Bess brings love and warmth into his home, you can feel his soul expanding. Tracy Camp’s Bess isn’t the standard femme fatale, either. Beneath her hard exterior, she’s as vulnerable as Porgy and yearns equally for companionship. Where Barrett’s singing is often thoughtful and low-key, Camp’s is operatic and sometimes just a touch bright — but when she soars into the high notes and Barrett’s voice rises to meet her, the effect is transfixing. Perhaps something is lost in this new version – but, brought to life at the Aurora Fox, it shimmers in memory. Presented by the Aurora Fox through January 1, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, 303-739-1970, Read the full review of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess.

For more theater productions and events, see our calendar listings.

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman