CenterStage

High crimes in Morrison
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Eddy Montesano (buzz@boulderweekly.com)

A few bronze chandeliers hang among a ceiling peppered with industrial lighting equipment in a mustard-colored playhouse on 110 Stone Street in Morrison, Colorado. This comfortably small theatre, where one is made to feel extremely welcome, hosts a production that deserves nightly sold-out performances-High Crimes and Misdemeanors, a book of 12 short stories and now a play of three. These three shorts pulled from Evergreen dweller Joanne Greenberg's collection each deal with a crime that leaves the audience to ponder whether these acts are high crimes or mere misdemeanors.

Act one, "On Tiptoe Must They Leave the Pious of Israel," begins in-and never leaves-the living room of Arthur and Clarise Waldman (Mark Putt and Karalyn "Star" Pytel), parents to two children who are never seen, but heard in their suburban home. The couple is intruded upon by an eccentric, elderly Jewish woman in red Converse All-Stars.

Sarah Levy, the sneaker-clad lady, played by Paige Lynn Larson, does a bit more than bother her well-mannered neighbors, she threatens them. Levy is an extortionist; she hides this from her prey as she hides her age. Her ability to manipulate them enough to "donate" more than one $500 check to a hospital for Jews on Long Island is startling in its cleverness. Also, Paige's portrayal of the wickedly funny Sarah is a pleasure to watch.

"They Live," the second act, takes place in Marjorie's (Suzanne Gagnon) garden behind her lovely Victorian home, back in 1978. We find Marjorie facing an easel in a straw hat, enjoying an idyllic afternoon painting outdoors, until Kay Tracey (Nancy Thomas) arrives for her business appointment. The two women appear well-to-do, one stiffened with an air of professionalism and grace, the other a bourgeois sort who keeps a small bell nearby to ring for her butler. The appointment, however, is different than one may expect from these two. It is a meeting to arrange a death.

Marjorie is proficient in the craft of executions, though her thoroughness betrays her assumed coldness as she becomes too inquisitive of her prospective client. She wants to know why Kay sought her out for consultation. Put off by the curious woman, Kay, in turn, provokes Marjorie to explain why she has chosen such an occupation.

As the story unfolds, it creates dramatic scenes of vulnerabilities as the women describe their unfortunate histories. It is, as is the production as a whole, hysterical and intense, leaving the audience feeling as though they had been spies to the absurd reality-not only of what world we live in, but also who is at work behind the scenes.

The unforgettable final act, "Things in their Season," is the highlight of the entire production. It is the story of three men who are studying the Torah under the guidance of Rabbi Jacob (Albert Banker). When the students find out that their beloved teacher is dying they concoct a plan to steal "time" from the government to keep the Grim Reaper at bay.

The criminal element in this act is that of good people breaking the law for the benefit of one. The three criminals induce tears of laughter from the audience as they carry out their caper, and the comedic brilliance of Toni Catanese, as Becker, is well matched with the heart-felt sincerity of Robert Kramer, as Woodrow.

Walter L Newton's adaptation of Greenberg's book deserves a nod since he worked within the stories, never alienating the originals from the performance. The production is replete with little surprises-evidence of superb direction. Rather than attempt to conduct invisible set changes, which is almost impossible in a small theater, the performers turn each set change into a short physical comedy that smacks of the Marx Brothers. High Crimes and Misdemeanors is one to reflect upon. And for Boulderites, the half hour drive back (faster at night) is ample time to mull over the questions it raises.