Lucky Me Curious Theatre Company 1080 Acoma Street 303-623-0524 Curious Theatre Company's participation in the National New Play Network has been a boon for Denver audiences, in particular the company's loyal cadre of regulars, who tend to be the kind of people who want to hear new voices and are open to being surprised and provoked as well as charmed and delighted. Artistic director Chip Walton has introduced Denver to several interesting playwrights, and now comes Robert Caisley, whose Lucky Me -- a smart, funny, entertaining evening with a highly original heroine -- is the current NNPN offering. See also: Buried Child Still Packs a Creepy Wallop
Sara suffers from self-diagnosed EHS, or electromagnetic hypersensitivity. She can't handle technology -- and not just technology, but objects in general. Her lightbulbs flicker and fizz out; her roof leaks, and the leaks somehow always find her fish tank, no matter where she places it, contaminating the water and killing the fish. She falls a lot. She hasn't had a hot meal since 1989 because she can't handle the stove, a knife or the microwave. Wineglasses shatter in her hands. Her window attracts kids' errant balls. Her cat disappears. Sara also endangers those around her, and on top of all these problems, she lives with her blind, cantankerous father, who spends all his time making more tsuris for her.
She has resigned herself to this state of things, but then a stranger comes into her life: kindly new neighbor Tom, who rescues her after a fall from the roof, where she was trying to plug a leak. Tom takes her to the hospital and brings her home leaning heavily on crutches. He's a protective soul in general -- he works at the airport, for the TSA -- so once he's fallen for Sara, he sets out to rescue her, at some risk to his own mental and physical well-being.
The author's originality is refreshing, and the running joke of inexplicable, minor yet devastating destruction gets faster and funnier as the evening progresses. Though the premise is anything but realistic, the two principals are sympathetically drawn, and they're very well played by Dee Covington and Erik Sandvold as a fortyish pair beaten down by life but still entertaining little ripples of hope. The absurdity of the basic premise doesn't bother us, partly because we all know people whose lives just keep tripping them up no matter how hard they struggle to stay upright, and partly because we accept all the physical mishaps as metaphors for life's tribulations.
But Sara's father, Leo, stands in the way of all hope. Perhaps he's even a kind of poltergeist, and his angry negativity is what causes bulbs to burst and fish to go belly-up. And, oh, is Randy Moore funny and compelling in the role, gravelly voiced and with a mean, tight trap of a mouth, given to ambiguous and confusing statements -- is the man blind or isn't he? -- and utterly self-assured in his semi-dementia. We haven't seen Moore, who used to be one of the stars of the Denver Center Theatre Company, on stage recently in a role that allows him to display his stuff, and it turns out that his stuff is still fabulous.
There's a fourth character, Yuri, the Ukrainian landlord who once dated Sara -- and Kurt Brighton, wearing shorts, fat socks, clod-hopping boots and (uh-oh!) a neck brace, does him full hilarious justice.
The play goes on a little too long, and the second act loses some of the fizz of the first. There are passages of explication -- a too-long one from Sara and a shorter one from Tom -- that feel unnecessary, a belated attempt on the playwright's part to explain everything and add a bit of pathos. I'd have been happier if Sara's strange ailment and Tom's response to it had been left in the realm of the fascinatingly inexplicable. And I didn't want to understand Leo's behavior; I was too busy enjoying him as simply a nasty old coot intent on sabotaging his daughter's happiness.
But overall, this is a very satisfactory production, featuring a playwright well worth encountering; meticulously conceived and constructed tech (the shining plastic covers on the furniture, the perfectly timed mini-explosions and sudden accidents -- which must have been a bitch to stage -- and the wonderful song choices that enliven the scene changes); and, finally, performances by four seasoned actors with highly developed individual comic chops and perfect timing as an ensemble.
Lucky Me, presented by Curious Theatre Company, runs through December 6 at 1080 Acoma Street. For ticket information, call 303-623-0524 or go to curioustheatre.org.