Being Alive

“You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”—Paul McCartney

I think this quotation best sums up Will Eno’s Wakey, Wakey which is currently playing at the BlueBarn Theatre.

Normally, I open my reviews with a brief synopsis of the play’s story.  This time I’m going to wait until the end as this particular show completely eschews the normal narrative style.  From my experience, Eno seems to have a knack for creating an everyman character to communicate with the audience.  Perhaps this everyman is the audience or at least its conscience.  Ostensibly the play’s unnamed central character is here to say good-bye, but shares a far more powerful message in a story that truly fits BlueBarn’s season-long theme of memory.

Barry Carman offers up a stunning piece of direction in this show.  Every single word.  Every single pause.  Every single look.  Every single breath.  Every single move has purpose.  Seldom have I seen such a meticulous piece of direction or staging.  Carman has also led his two performers to extraordinary performances and I was particularly keen on his “less than more” animation of his actors.  They neither move a lot nor need to.  As I said earlier, when a movement is made, a definite purpose is behind it.

Aaron Zavitz plays the unnamed central character (listed simply as Guy).  Who is Guy?  Unknown.  But tonight he is apparently a talk show host as that’s the vibe he gives out, further bolstered by a hanging “No Applause” sign and a reference to a special guest.  From the get-go, Guy seems to be marking time to an ending and is talking with the audience solely to pass that time.

Zavitz is a marvel in the role.  His rich, mellow baritone filling the theatre as he talks with us about anything and everything, but mostly about life.  Zavitz’s delivery is exceptionally extemporaneous.  He truly sounded like he was making everything up as he went and this is well-suited for his character who seems a trifle disorganized with his out of order note cards and his unseen help who sometimes goof up his audio and visual cues, if not outright pranking him on word jumbles.

Zavitz is quite likable and is, at turns, funny, nervous, serious, happy, melancholic, even slightly desperate as he tries to teach the audience about being alive.  Most impressive is his character’s deterioration over the course of the show.  Guy is sick and weak and gets progressively more so over the course of the show as Zavitz’s chest begins to collapse in on itself, his mobility decreases, and his mental focus falters.

Echelle Childers is equally wonderful as the mysterious helper, Lisa.  There is something otherworldly, dare I say, angelic about this character.  Childers is so gentle and loving as Lisa as she carefully massages and soothes the wearied Guy, offers him hibiscus juice, and tidies him up before wheeling him offstage and she does it all with a beatific smile on her face.  I was moved by her soft-spoken nature which permeated her entire being up to and including a little dance she performs while Guy takes a brief catnap.  Her character seems to hold a vast store of wisdom as she shares a few of her own stories and outlooks with the audience.

Craig Lee’s set adds to the ethereal nature of the show with a seemingly abandoned room save for a few boxes that is dominated by a large screen, massive windows in the rear, and never used door on house left.  Lights and sounds are absolutely critical to this piece and Bill Kirby rises to the occasion with his lights suddenly clicking on and off, soft music, flashy disco lights, and a moment simulating sunrise.  Kirby is also responsible for the projections which ranged from the sweet to the amusing.  Susan Clement-Toberer has costumed the actors well with the ordinary shirt and jeans for Lisa and the bedrobe and rumpled clothes/pajamas for Guy.

So what is the story of Wakey, Wakey?  It’s simply YOUR story.

Wakey, Wakey plays at BlueBarn Theatre through Feb 23.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm except for a 6pm show on Feb 16.  Tickets cost $35 ($30 for seniors) and can be obtained at www.bluebarn.org or by calling 402-345-1576.  The BlueBarn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

‘Wakey, Wakey’ Over at Blue Barn

BLUEBARN THEATRE presents: 

The Regional Premiere of 

Wakey, Wakey

By Will Eno 

January 30th -February 23rd, 2020

Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays: 2/9 & 2/23 at 2pm| 2/16 at 6pm 

Memento Mori.

About the play:

You are invited to a celebration. We will talk about time, gratitude, our childhoods, and the million miracles at work in the world, in every single moment. There will be pictures. There will be music. Gifts. Wonder. Grief. Rebirth. From Will Eno, author of the BLUEBARN’s productions of Thom Pain and Gnit, comes an extraordinary, strange and beautiful experience that wakes up the big questions, and awakens us to one another with sly humor, compassion, and grace.

P.S.  There will be cake.          

About the production:

Wakey,Wakey features performances by Aaron Zavits and Echelle Childers. Directed by Barry Carman. Scenic design by Craig Lee. Properties by Amy Reiner. Sound, lighting, and projection design by Bill Kirby. Costumes by Susan Clement-Toberer. 

Generously sponsored by:

Security National Bank

Warren Distribution

Tickets:

General Admission ($35) and Senior ($30) tickets are available at bluebarn.org. Educator, Military, and BLUCrew tickets are available through the box office (402) 345-1576.

Blue Barn Vows to Make Memories with Season 31

BLUEBARN THEATRE ANNOUNCES

Season 31: Memory

This season BLUEBARN delves into the collective unconscious with five transcendent theatrical experiences, sure to linger long in your memory after you leave the theatre.

What do we choose to remember? What do we allow ourselves to forget?  In finding our individual answers to these questions, we discover the nature of our identities, our views of society, and our responsibilities within it.  We transform memory into history, into adventure, into myth. We create the past with these choices.  We define our present. We shape the future.

RED SUMMER

World Premiere Production

by Beaufield Berry

September 26th – October 20th , 2019 

In commemoration of the centenary of the Omaha race riots of 1919, BLUEBARN presents the world premiere of Beaufield Berry’s evocative account of our city’s past centered on the story of William Brown. Accused of a crime he couldn’t physically have committed, the infamous torture and lynching of this 40 yr old factory worker is a stain on America’s heartland. Red Summer presents an unflinching depiction of a city on the brink of chaos and a compelling portrait of the black migrant experience, each grounded by a deeply affecting vision of Will’s life and relationships before he became a tragic headline.

History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.

 

A VERY DIE HARD CHRISTMAS

by Jeff Schell and the Habit

November 29th  – December 22nd, 2019

Yippee-Ki-Yay, BLUEBARNERS! An outrageous take on the Most. Beloved. Christmas Movie. Of. All Time, we cordially invite you to our company Christmas party at Nakatomi Plaza! All NYPD Blue’s John McClane wants is to come to the coast, get together with his estranged wife, and have some laughs. But when a team of well-choreographed, vaguely European terrorists start taking hostages as part of their nefarious plot to…who cares 😊 John has to cowboy up! Starring the dead guy from The Sixth Sense, the cop outside with Twinkies, big big hair, cocaine, indoor smoking, Professor Snape, and 40 floors of sheer adventure!

Hilarious, action-packed déjà vu… all over again.

WAKEY, WAKEY
by Will Eno
January 30th – February 23rd, 2020

You are invited to a celebration. We will talk about time, gratitude, our childhoods, and the million miracles at work in the world, in every single moment. There will be pictures. There will be music. Gifts. Wonder. Grief. Rebirth. From Will Eno, author of the BLUEBARN’s productions of Thom Pain and Gnit, comes an extraordinary, strange and beautiful experience that wakes up the big questions, and awakens us to one another with sly humor, compassion, and grace. P.S. There will be cake.          

Memento mori.

MARJORIE PRIME
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
by Jordan Harrison
March 19th – April 12th, 2020

In the near future, ‘Primes’ are available from the good people at Senior Serenity, the latest devices for helping people with their fading memories and loss of companionship. Marjorie’s daughter and son-in-law have purchased Walter Prime (a holographic projection of her husband as he looked in his 30s) to keep her company.  As the Prime is fed memories and conversation, the shape of their lives are revealed, more and more years are covered and recovered, and the nature of memories, the legacy of the past, and the promise of the future are all called into question.

Memories are not the key to the past, but the future.

A CHORUS LINE

Conceived and Originally Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett

Book by James Kirkwood, Jr. & Nicholas Dante, Music by Martin Hamlisch, Lyrics by Edward Kleban

Winner of 9 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize

May 14th – June 14th, 2020 

A singular sensation.  A cultural touchstone.  An iconic masterpiece.  A Chorus Line has captivated generations of theatre theatregoers with its unforgettable score, astonishing songs, and stunning choreography.  Rediscover the raw emotion, heart and determination of the unsung heroes of American musical theatre, the chorus dancers.  Drawn from real experiences that resonate even more strongly today, share the hopes and dreams, failures and successes of 16 dancers with their lives and careers on the line as they endure a grueling audition process.  Rediscover the power, rediscover the beauty, embrace the spectacular magic of one of the finest musicals ever set to stage.

Experience A Chorus Line again, for the very first time.

Do you remember what you did for love?

SEASON MEMBERSHIPS GO ON SALE TO THE PUBLIC JULY 24

CALL 402.345.1576

OR VISIT WWW.BLUEBARN.ORG

Join us for another season of unforgettable theatre.

Gknow Gnit Gnicely Gnails It

Who am I?

It’s such a simple question, yet it has haunted some individuals for the entirety of their lives.  The search for self is a profound quest and this is the plot of the dramedy, Gnit, an impressive jewel of a play currently playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

Will Eno’s modern day mistelling of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is at times funny, heartbreaking, and deeply insightful.  The play, itself, is very stream of consciousness.  Events seem to happen for no rhyme or reason.  Yet it all, somehow, holds together and provides for a most illuminating night of theatre.  Credit for this goes to the ensemble cast, each of whom is universally up to the challenge of this esoteric and arduous play and the superlative directing of Susan Clement-Toberer.

Matthew Pyle gives a virtuoso performance as Peter Gnit.  Gnit is a thoroughly and utterly worthless human being obsessed with discovering his true and real self.  He is selfish, arrogant, manipulative, clueless, and a coward.  Despite the fact that you should hate this guy, Pyle imbues Gnit with a certain likability that makes you hope that he finally gets it, especially at the moments where Gnit shows his humanity.  Pyle’s delivery is beautifully simple and straightforward which serves to make Gnit so very real.  He could be any one of us and this is most telling towards the end of the play when Pyle’s Gnit tells the audience that he hates us.  Is it because we get it or because we’re not so different from him?

The other performers all play multiple roles, but each has a featured character that really stands out.

For Stacie Lamb, it is her performance as Gnit’s mother.  She’s elderly, sick, crotchety as all get out, and doesn’t trust her son as far as she could throw him.  She quite clearly loves him in spite of the fact that Gnit is a constant source of trouble for her, resulting in her having to pay for his sins.  Act I’s closing scene between Lamb’s mother and Pyle’s Gnit is guaranteed to make you shed a tear.

Jonathan Purcell is incredibly amusing as Town.  Yes, Purcell literally plays an entire town, effortlessly, and schizophrenically, jumping from character to character with every sentence.  A role like this could so easily be played over the top, yet Purcell always manages to play the reality of the situation which permits him to maximize this unique character’s potential and garner innumerable laughs.

Sarah Carlson-Brown plays Solvay, the love of Gnit’s life, and, quite possibly, the key to Gnit’s discovery of his true and real self.  Carlson-Brown brings a confident sweetness to this character.  Her Solvay isn’t waiting around pining for Gnit.  Assuredly believing that Gnit will one day return to her, she is busy living her life in the interim through giving.  Caring for the house Gnit built and creating a bird sanctuary.

Bill Grennan demonstrates his incredible versatility once more with a comedic turn as The Middle/The Sphinx and a more dramatic turn as the Pale Man.  The Middle/The Sphinx is a (mostly) unseen character.  Serving as a conscience of sorts to Gnit, Grennan, using nothing more than the power of his voice, crafts a smartly humorous character determined to point Gnit in the right direction, but is frustrated by Gnit’s obliviousness.

As the Pale Man, Grennan provides a darkly mysterious character out to test Gnit’s “lack of integrity”.  Once his true identity is revealed, you begin to understand the real internal strength of this persona.

Katlynn Yost’s characters are routinely victimized by Gnit.  From a bride being kidnapped and deflowered by Gnit on her wedding day, to playing some groupies snubbed by Gnit, to transforming into an odd, witchlike, “realtoress” impregnated by Gnit, Yost deftly creates one unique characterization after another.  However, it is also implied that her “realtoress” ultimately gets the best of Gnit by cursing him to never find his true self.

“Who’s next?” challenges Gnit at the end of the play.  “Is it you?  You?  Or you?”  Do we know who we are?  Do we even know what it means to live?  And in that pursuit of self, are we merely takers or givers?  How you view Gnit after the play ends will go a long way towards answering those questions.

Gnit continues at the Blue Barn Theatre until March 16.  Performances are Thurs-Sat at 7:30 and Sundays at 2pm.  An additional 6pm showing will be shown on Sunday, March 16.  There are no performances on Feb 23 and Mar 13-15.  Tickets are $25 for general admission and $20 for students, Seniors (65+), and TAG members.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576.  The Blue Barn is located at 614 S 11th St in Omaha, NE.