Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Funky Little Theater Company presents August: Osage County, plus more of this week's events

Posted By on Wed, May 22, 2019 at 12:00 AM

click to enlarge LARELL HERBERT
  • LaRell Herbert

August: Osage County

Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., through June 1, Funky Little Theater Company, 1367 Pecan St., $15-$19, funkylittletheater.org

When it comes to a beloved play like August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, each production must not only honor, but bolster the Pulitzer Prize-winning script. Actors must come across as genuine and heartfelt, whether delivering the play’s moments of tension-snapping laughter, or throwing themselves into the depths of its drama.

And there is plenty of drama. The dysfunctional Oklahoma family at the center of the action deals with everything from addiction to divorce to suicide to cancer to incest, and at its best it feels like the worst family reunion you’ve never attended. Only in this play, it’s the disappearance of the family’s patriarch that brings everyone together, rather than any desire to spend time in each other’s company.

On Funky Little Theater’s stage, the family home comes to brilliant life with a set I knew was designed by Roy Ballard before I even looked at the crew list. It accomplishes what Ballard’s sets do best: making a small space appear extensive. But even so, when the family starts flooding in — a cast that gets larger with each passing scene until the big family dinner — it feels appropriately claustrophobic and crowded, uncomfortable.

The cast contributes beautifully to that sense of discomfort, bringing these people to life with consistent physical mannerisms and deeply intentional expressions, even when the audience’s focus falls on the other side of the stage. Cara Marshall (Ivy) appears first to the audience curled in on herself with nervous tension, and she carries that tension in her shoulders nearly the entire play. Elisabeth Sells plays 14-year-old Jean with startling authenticity and awkwardness, immediately endearing her to the audience. Then there’s Elizabeth Kahn as Barbara, who has to sustain a level of rage throughout most of the play that would do a number on most actors, but somehow she keeps that fire stoked.

While the rest of the cast performs admirably as well, Karen Anderson as matriarch Violet undoubtedly steals the show. There’s something deeply unsettling about the realism of Violet’s drug-induced ramblings, and how recognizable her addiction is to those of us who have seen it in our loved ones. One of the most powerful moments of the play: Violet sits at the center of the family dinner table (reminiscent of Jesus in “The Last Supper”), smoking a cigarette and verbally attacking her children. The visual drives home the power Violet holds over her family. Kudos to director Chris Medina there.

Ultimately, the Funky cast and crew do a service to August: Osage County; it’s well worth taking the time to be inspired by it.

Barnum

Wednesdays-Sundays, times vary, through June 16, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, 30 W. Dale St., tickets start at $20, csfineartscenter.org

The art of the circus, it turns out, has deep roots at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. In researching the FAC’s history for the institution’s 100th anniversary this year, FAC staff discovered photos and articles about circus-themed fundraisers hosted by the FAC in 1953 and 1954. These provocative events included acrobats and animal shows, clowns and more, filling up the center from top to bottom and raising both money and eyebrows. In honor of this heritage, and because it’s just a good damn show, the FAC’s award-winning theater company will be putting on Barnum, the 1980 musical about the founder of the famed Barnum & Bailey Circus. You’ll see authentic circus acts alongside some stellar musical numbers, and enjoy the spirit of the FAC’s legacy while you’re at it.

Fire and Ice Figure Skating Exhibition

click to enlarge COURTESY BROADMOOR SKATING CLUB
  • Courtesy Broadmoor Skating Club


May 23, 6:15-8 p.m., Broadmoor World Arena, 3185 Venetucci Blvd., free, broadmoorskatingclub.com

Anything that sticks around 80-plus years has total permission to brag on its successes, and the Broadmoor Skating Club is no exception. As this group has collected coaches, figure skaters and choreographers from around the world, it has produced figure skating national champions since 1950, and some of its current members have brought further recognition to the group. Take Camden Pulkinen, who holds the world record for the junior men’s short program, or ice dance pair Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson, who consistently make it to the U.S. Championships. Tonight’s exhibition will feature members of the Broadmoor Skating Club, plus a lineup of other skaters who are currently training at the World Arena.

Deathtrap

Fridays-Saturdays, 7-9 p.m., and Sundays, 3-5 p.m., through June 2, Rialto Theater, 209 W. Main St., Florence, $10-$12, historicrialtotheater.org

Self-aware theater can make for incredibly fun theater, as the playwright knows exactly which tropes they’re walking into and can choose to subvert or embrace them, depending on the mood. Though Deathtrap, like its title suggests, is a murder thriller on paper, its total awareness of itself makes for a brilliantly funny dark comedy that wholly embraces all the shock and subterfuge that defines the genre. Deathtrap follows a struggling playwright who plots to kill his colleague and steal his sure-to-be-successful script, but there’s more than one scheme at play here. Check out the Rialto Players’ performance of this 1978 classic.

Ali Wong

May 26, 7-9 p.m., Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave., $43.75-$80.25, pikespeakcenter.com

In the last five years, comedian Ali Wong has gone from relative anonymity to intense fame, partly due to her writing gig on the hit show Fresh Off the Boat and partly due to her two Netflix comedy specials: Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife, both of which were filmed when she was seven months pregnant. Wong brings a lot of physicality to her comedy — her often vulgar, painful-truth-telling comedy — and she’s well worth watching live. 

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