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Charles Ives Take Me Home

Jim Hunt as Charles Ives
Jim Hunt as Charles Ives
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Conventional wisdom is ... conventional. If an artist aims to provide new insights and perceptions, he or she must be willing to stand alone, even ignored and/or ridiculed by those whose notion of art or wisdom falls safely within conventional standards.

Such a solitary man was Charles Ives.

Eventually, toward the end of his life and after his death, his work was extolled and performed by the likes of Aaron Copland, Arnold Schoenberg, Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Ives' musical virtuosity was just one of his many talents. In addition, Ives was a man who produced innovations in business (insurance), and loved sports, particularly baseball.

(Left to right) Jim Hunt as Charles Ives and Dave Belden as John Starr
(L to R) Jim Hunt as Charles Ives
and Dave Belden as John Starr
Photo: Michael Ensminger
In this thoughtful and heartwarming play, Ives' spirit (Jim Hunt) manifests at key moments in the life of one of his former students, John Starr (Dave Belden), in an attempt to break down John's arrogance regarding music and his judgment of others, particularly of his daughter, Laura (Kate Berry).

Hunt brings an abundance of avuncular and wizened charm to Ives, whose multifaceted interests provide a natural connection to both John and Laura. As the story goes, John takes a tutorial from Ives while attending the Juilliard. In a fascinating series of scenes, Hunt's easy-going but focused conveyance of Ives' quick wit and vast cross-cultural references versus Belden's earnest, formal portrayal of John, provide an excellent baseline comparison for John and Laura's interactions that follow.

Kate Berry as Laura Starr and Dave Belden as John Starr
Kate Berry as Laura Starr
and Dave Belden as John Starr
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Berry is a whirlwind of energy as the basketball-crazy Laura, putting on an impressive dribbling display, switching hands and improvisationally changing tempos according to John's examples of musical techniques on his violin. She is also the comic relief, with her hilarious juvenile impersonations bursting Belden's wonderfully uptight bubble. Belden's violin playing nicely follows the dramatic arc, moving from well-played, but metronomic passages to a lyrical climax, while the piano for his accompaniment, nicely mimed by Hunt on the 88s, are perfectly synched.

Susan Crabtree's elegant and graceful set, a single wooden platform that curves to form the backdrop as well, gives the feeling of both a music bandshell and a basketball court, making for seamless transitions in Christy Montour-Larson's natural staging.

Kate Berry as Laura Starr
(L to R) Jim Hunt as Charles Ives
and Dave Belden as John Starr
Photo: Michael Ensminger
While paying homage to an American original who stretched the boundaries of the musical vocabulary and paved the way for many melodic innovations, playwright Jessica Dickey (The Amish Project and Row After Row) takes us on a poetic and cautionary journey, examining the ways a gifted parent ignores the gift of his own child, bringing needless pain and suffering to both parties, until an ethereal epilogue brings a measure of catharsis.

Curious Theatre Company's regional premiere of Charles Ives Take Me Home runs through February 14th. For tickets: 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org.

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