Friday, May 02, 2008

"Playboy of the Western World" and "Rabbit Hole"

This is the last weekend for TheatreWorks' student production of Playboy of the Western World - and it's well worth your time to see it.

First, J. M. Synge's 1907 play is much more than an historical curiosity. Though it no longer inspires riots as its premier did, its depiction of rural Irish life - and by extension, human nature - is still bitterly, riotously funny. And the language has a lyric beauty that's all but vanished from the world. (For reasons Synge explains in his preface to the play.)

Second, it's one of the finest student productions I've seen at TheatreWorks, with clear direction from Laura Tesman, a gorgeous Roy Ballard set, and some thrilling fights choreographed by Gene Gillette. Colin Gregory shows tremendous skill range as Christy - the mysterious stranger who's lionized in a small Irish town for having murdered his father.

Synge's play twists and turns as it explores mob mentality. The final master-stroke is both the crowning absurdity and the gateway into the play's profound ending.

Meanwhile, this is also the final weekend for the Star Bar Players' excellent production of Rabbit Hole. Playboy is upstairs in the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater; Rabbit Hole is downstairs at the Osborne Studio Theater.

If you could only attend one, I'd recommend Rabbit Hole. Its cast is more skillful and more experienced, with a performance by Steve Emily as Howie that's not likely to be bettered this year. David Lindsay-Abaire's tale of a family's reaction to the death of their child isn't likely to age as well as Synge's masterpiece, but it's still an extraordinary script in which every line and every reaction rings true.

So what accounts for the disparity in attendance between the two productions? On Thursday night, Playboy was absolutely full; when I saw Rabbit Hole on opening night, a smaller house was about two-thirds full. Is this simply a result of TheatreWorks's superior marketing and larger subscriber base? Really cheap tickets for Playboy? The fact that it has a large student cast, all of whom have numerous friends? The arguably off-putting subject matter of Rabbit Hole?

I am, as usual, mystified.

The Star Bar Players present Rabbit Hole
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Osborne Studio Theater, UCCS, 3955 Cragwood Drive
Tickets: $15/$12 seniors, military and students; 573-7411 or

TheatreWorks presents The Playboy of the Western World
When: 7:30 p.m. today, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Cragwood Drive,
Tickets: $10; 262-3232 or


Blogger atomicelroy said...

It's Theatrework's marketing dollars and word of mouth through a large subscription base.
Second the hardest thing for a company to do is change venues and keep audience size ( this is most likely why Star Bar has suffered through all the crap they went through at The Lon Chaney Theatre prior to making this move).
What we really need is a smaller venue ( say 99 - 150 seats) that's affordable by smaller companies. What would be ideal is if they used the STUDIO BEE at the PCC for what it was intended for. Said small venue that would be rented at an affordable price to multiple companies. ( it would most likely be booked most of the year if they reduced the price, or someone wrote a grant for a subsidy

6:29 AM  
Blogger Mark Arnest said...

That's a great idea.

In the performing arts, venues are THE major issue we face in CS. (Aside from 108-inch home entertainment centers, a challenge the performing arts face everywhere in the US.)

These are the changes to venues that I can recall since I started reviewing performing arts in 1993:

* Smokebrush closed - loss of a nice mid-sized space and a funky small space;
* Various Atomic Elroy venues opened and/or closed - loss of a funky small space (as of this posting);
* Dusty Loo Bon Vivant opened, replacing Dwire - slightly larger, much nicer;
* Osborne Studio Theater opened underneath Dusty Loo - a new funky small space;
* Venue 515 opened at the BAC - a new funky, smallish space.
* FAC renovated - nicer but no larger;
* PPC renovated - nicer but no larger;
* Lon Chaney has become less available due to greater use of the City Auditorium's adjacent large space; and
* Cornerstone at CC about to open - possibly excellent mid-sized space, but available to the public only in the summer, if then.

That's about even in the total number of venues and seats, and a net gain in quality, but a slight loss in accessible spaces. With an expanding population, this is distressing.

Meanwhile, I've seen shows in a ton of other places: The new Smokebrush Foundation, Studio Bee, numerous schools and churches, various dinner theater venues, and even Miramont Castle. The only ones that have been anything more than adequate were some of the school spaces, which were designed to be theaters but will always have accessibility issues. Studio Bee is by far the best of the rest.

10:27 AM  

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