Theatre is a precarious art. There are so many variables that go into creating a successful show—plot, character, theme, language, music, spectacle—it's a rare production that can excel in more than a few of these areas. For most acting companies, the process of creating art begins by weeding through a mound of scripts to find the one that not only will bring in audiences, but provide a challenge for its actors. In the case of Buntport Theatre Company, however, the process begins with a blank slate that they themselves must fill, one idea at a time.
Given the number of scripts that are worked on for years and still fail to attract audience support when they are finally produced, Buntport's consistent success with collaborative pieces, developed over a relatively short timeframe, is remarkable in itself. The sheer inventiveness of their creations, however, is what sets them apart from others working in this genre.
Their current production, Misc., is comprised of two one-acts, "Elevator," and "< (Less Than) Cinderella." Although generally unrelated in theme, both pieces are notable for what they do, and don't do, with language.
In "Elevator," a short, silent ride up the shaft of a skyscraper during a morning commute turns into a nearly one-hour investigation of the psychological landscapes of four passengers: Erik Edborg is a writer on his way to meet his new agent and pitch a book he has not written or even conceived; Erin Rollman is a literary agent, worried about the new client file she has forgotten; Evan Weissman is an actor obsessed with the superficial details of the elevator ride and his fellow passengers; Hannah Duggan is the interloper who stops the elevator for a one-floor flight that sends everyone else into a tizzy.
|Hannah Duggan, Erik Edborg,|
Erin Rollman, and Evan Weissman
Photo credit: Sandra H. Elkind
Unlike most theatrical characters that are defined by their spoken dialogue and actions, the players in "Elevator" develop through the externalization of their stream of consciousness. Despite a couple of slow spots, the dynamic of these inner conversations and their gradual transformation into a meaningful exchange of "unspoken" thoughts between a random group of wayfarers confined to the same metal cage is compelling, leaving us to wonder about the communication that may be transpiring just below our conscious radar.
Shifting genres from existentialism and the absurd to commedia dell'arte and pantomime, the players return from intermission with a story so well known to us all that it needs no words, or at least, no sounds that make any sense. In "< Cinderella," the theme of transformation, confined in the original fairy tale to the glamour girl, her carriage, and her attendants, is applied across the board to the Prince, the stepmother, a step-sister, and, of course, Cinderella herself. Indeed, the transformations themselves are as much the stars of this performance as the actors themselves. For these metamorphic tours de force, though, you'll have to come see for yourself.
|Hannah Duggan as the Stepsister|
and Evan Weissman as the Prince
in < (Less Than) Cinderella
Photo credit: Sandra H. Elkind
As entertaining and funny as the Buntport players are, the overriding lesson that they offer is even more gripping: laughter resulting from great comedy heals as surely as the catharsis wrought through great drama.
Misc. runs through October 12th. 720-946-1388.