Author: christopher

UTBA reviewers sound off: EXCELLENCE in 2015

At the end of every year at UTBA we collect our members’ thoughts on the excellent shows they have seen that year. And for the fifth year in a row, it is clear that the Utah theatre scene is vibrant, with entertainment options available for patrons of all types. Below are the shows that stick out in our reviewers minds as 2015 draws to a close. Excellent Professional (Equity) Productions Who would have thought that a farce written in the 1890’s would still be belly-aching funny 120 years later? The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s take on Charley’s Aunt was phenomenal all around:...

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Hey! Unto you is staged THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER at CenterPoint

CENTERVILLE — There is something unavoidably self-referential about The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Watching a community theatre production of a play about producing a play that involves herding large numbers of children on and off the stage in the right combination and sequence always makes me wonder to what degree fiction and reality have coincided. Moreover, Barbara Robinson’s 1982 stage adaptation of her own 1971 book is such a fixture of the season that, in its more than thirty years of production history in community, church, and educational venues, many a parent has doubtless reacted much like Mr. Bradley in...

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A superbly acted OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at Pioneer Theatre Company

SALT LAKE CITY — Early in Outside Mullingar, the elderly Irish farmer Tony Reilly complains that his son, Anthony, “draws no strength from the land.” Yet, by the conclusion of this lyrical, understated play, it becomes clear that their farm, which has been in the family for over a hundred years, has every bit as much of a hold on the inhibited Anthony as it ever did his father. Outside Mullingar, the most recent work by John Patrick Shanley, best known for his Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning Doubt, enjoyed a well received, limited run on Broadway early last year. In its...

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Production trends upward at the Babcock’s ANIMAL FARM

SALT LAKE CITY — Animal Farm, based on George Orwell’s 1945 novella of the same name, spins a fable inspired by the Russian revolution of 1917 and its descent into Stalinism. From a contemporary vantage point, however, the tale easily transcends its original context to serve as a satirical critique of human nature and the development of authoritarian systems of control, whatever their ideological underpinnings. The University of Utah’s thoughtful, pessimistic production at the Babcock Theatre, directed by Jamie Rocha Allan, privileges this more universal interpretation by using masks to characterize not just the animals, but the humans as well. Set on a farm in rural England, the plot centers around an animal revolt and the expulsion of their human oppressors. Led chiefly by the pigs Snowball (Kate Lanphier) and Napoleon (Cody V. Thompson), the animals soon establish their own regime around the principles of “animalism” and agree on a body of laws that boils down to “four legs good, two legs bad.” However, as their egalitarian organization begins to decay, one is tempted to conclude that the animals have been perverted by the human patterns of behavior they begin to emulate. Yet, the production’s use of human masks suggests a subtle, but crucial, difference of interpretation. The masks put the people on the same level as the beasts — portraying them as just another animal species. This transforms the...

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An enchanting MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at the Castle

PROVO — Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is known for its carnivalesque elements, illustrated by the blurring of social roles that allows a commoner with a donkey’s head to become the lover of the fairy queen. Renaissance Now Theater and Film’s updated version of the show at the Castle Amphitheater took this aspect of the play to another level when the traditional script of theatergoer and performer was turned upside down by a cell phone ringing — not in the audience, but onstage, in the pocket of the donkey-man himself, Nick Bottom. Yet, rather than breaking the theatrical spell, the...

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