Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Theater Review: Map of Heaven

Stephanie Janssen in the world premiere of Map of Heaven at the Denver Center Theatre Company. Photo by Terry Shapiro.

Map of Heaven
Through Feb. 26, 2011
The Ricketson Theatre
Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Mon-Thurs 6:30pm
Fri & Sat 7:30pm
Sat matinee 1:30pm
Run time: 1 hour 37 minutes, no intermission
Tickets start at $10

By Rebecca Jessup

“Oh! what a tangled web we weave/When first we practise to deceive!”

So wrote Sir Walter Scott, and that truism has been the wellspring of endless dramas, novels, poems and songs. Playwright Michele Lowe, with the support of DCPA’s New Play Summit, has now added her latest play to that collection. Her small cast of characters is led by Stephanie Janssen as Lena, a New York artist who paints maps of imaginary places; she is about to have her first big show at a gallery owned and run by Rebecca, played by Angela Reed. Lena’s career seems about to take off just when her doctor husband, Ian (Quentin Maré), has lost the all the idealistic passion he once had for medicine, and can focus on nothing but his zeal for flying. His quirky, smart, impractical sister, Jen (Jessica Love), is a former lawyer who now works as a waitress. When we meet her, she is proud, even thrilled, that she saved the life of a customer who was choking at her restaurant.

Evan Cabnet’s casting and direction are excellent. The set and lighting, through sleight-of-hand shifts in emphasis, evoke by turns Lena’s downtown Manhattan studio, the entrance to Rebecca’s gallery, and the balcony of Lena and Ian’s apartment.

The creation of four well-defined main characters by both the playwright and the actors is one of the strongest and most promising aspects of the work. But despite uniformly strong performances, weak links in the plot keep us from being held enthralled. The main story line involves the disruption of Lena and Ian’s marriage, the consequence of an untruth that is revealed some two-thirds of the way through the play. This revelation would explain a great deal if it were more plausible in itself. Given that the characters are all decent people with whom we can identify, the deception revealed becomes too hard to credit, eroding our belief in the characters and their lives. The healing and reconciliation that begin, or are implied, by the end of the play do not quite restore our faith, since no accounts have been settled, no wrongs righted, except that the truth has outed.

Nevertheless, the play is worth seeing for the questions it raises and the way it explores relationships. In addition to the central deception-and-revelation, all the characters are holding something back from one another, until some pressure forces a release, and these releases usher in a sense of hope and possibility at the end.

Rebecca Jessup ( is a Latin teacher and a freelance writer.

Lovers, Split, Strangers
Annual Valentine Follies
At the Mercury Café
2199 California Street, Denver

The Mercury Café presents the annual Valentine’s Follies “Lovers, Split, Strangers” February 5 - 25. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. with a special Valentine's performance on Monday, February 14 at 7:30.p.m. Tickets are $10 and available by calling the Box Office at 303-294-9258.

A perverse romantic comedy for the politically astute and pissed off. Billed as a sexy, political, romantic comedy “Lovers, Split, Strangers” takes wide aim at the long list of public figures including, Tom and Jaquie Trancredo, Gayle and Ted Haggert, Julian Assange, Mary Cheney, Linda Chavez, Rush Limbaugh, Christine O’Donnel, Glen Beck and the whole Palin crew.

“Lovers, Split, Strangers”
Sat., Feb. 5; Thurs., Feb 10; Fri., Feb. 11, 18 and 25
Mon., Feb 14 Valentine’s Day, 7.30 p.m.
Reservations: 303-294-9258

Monday, February 7, 2011

Time to Gear Up for The Women's Wilderness Institute's 2011 Gear & Cheer Fund-raiser

Gear & Cheer to benefit
The Women's Wilderness Institute
Dairy Center for the Arts
March 16, 6-9pm

The Women's Wilderness Institute is gearing up for its 9th annual Gear & Cheer fundraising event to be held March 16 from 6 - 9 p.m. at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder. The event benefits The Women’s Wilderness Institute’s Girls Wilderness Program, and is traditionally one of Boulder’s best parties of the year for outdoor enthusiasts and Front Range residents who value supporting programs that improve self-esteem, self-efficacy, and leadership skills in today’s girls.

Gear & Cheer features live entertainment, local beer, wine and food tasting, as well as an amazing auction of high performance outdoor gear, great local services, and excit¬ing trip packages. The Women’s Wilderness Institute’s goal is to raise $40,000 from the event.

“We are thrilled to begin ‘gearing up’ for our 2011 Gear & Cheer, and are eager to welcome Front Range outdoor enthusiasts and trendsetters to this fun-filled event,” said Laura Tyson, executive director of The Women’s Wilderness Institute. “Our Girls’ Wilderness Program is the heart of the Institute’s mission, and we have never turned a girl away due to financial reasons. Community, corporate and private support, as well as our fundraising events such as Gear & Cheer, are all imperative to continue to provide girls with these nurturing experiences.”

For 13 years, The Women’s Wilderness Institute’s Girls’ Wilderness Program has used the challenge of wilderness experience to help girls discover the power of their own voices and build the personal and interpersonal skills to successfully navigate the challenges of their lives. Girls’ Wilderness Program courses are designed specifically to help build progressive wilderness skills and outdoor techniques that lead to a lifetime of adventure for girls. Courses are fun, challenging and full of discovery. Last year, 93% of The Women’s Wilderness Institute’s girls' program participants reported improvement in self-esteem, self-efficacy, or leadership skills.

Gear & Cheer is sponsored by Rally Sport and the Boulder Daily Camera. For more information, and to register for Gear & Cheer, visit The Women's Wilderness Institute website.

About The Women’s Wilderness Institute
The Women's Wilderness Institute (TWWI) is a nonprofit organization with the mission of strengthening the courage, confidence, and leadership qualities of girls and women, through the support and challenge of wilderness and community-based experiences. Girls are taught to make thoughtful, life-enhancing choices – the basis for a fulfilling and empowered life.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Erica Sarzin-Borrillo plays Marty, who teaches the class and is also James’s wife. Photo by Michael Ensminger

Curious Theatre Company continues its 2010-2011 season with Annie Baker’s acclaimed new comedy Circle Mirror Transformation, playing through Feb. 26 at Curious Theatre Company, 1080 Acoma St. in Denver.

Company member Christopher Leo directed this touching comedy about a group of five misfit strangers in an adult Creative Drama class in the mythical town of Shirley, Vt. The ensemble cast includes Denver all-stars Mark Rubald, Barbra Andrews, Bob Buckley and Erica Sarzin-Borrillo and newcomer Meredith Young—all in their first appearances on the Curious stage. The New York Times called the OBIE-winning show “absorbing, unblinking, and sharply funny,” and joined The New Yorker and Time Out New York in naming it one of the top 10 plays of 2009.

All performances except closing are followed by a talkback discussion with the cast. Boulder audiences may know Buckley as a Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company regular. Rubald has appeared in many Arvada Center shows, and Young is a CU-Boulder graduate.

Performance times are Thurs-Sat at 8pm (Friday, Feb. 18 show at 7:30pm for Girls Night Out), and Sundays at 2pm.

Tickets ($18-$42) are available at; 303-623-0524; or at the Curious Theatre Company box office.

Special free events related to Circle Mirror Transformation include:

Sunday, Feb. 13, 1-1:45pm; cash bar.
Backstage at Curious
Colorado Chamber Players presents the romantic music of Bruch (viola/clarinet/piano) and Rebecca Clarke (viola/clarinet), interspersed with comedic literature of love, read by Curious actors.

Friday, Feb. 18, 5:30-10:30pm
Girls Night Out

Sunday, Feb. 20, 1pm; cash bar.
Backstage at Curious
Discussion with Circle Mirror Transformation director Christopher Leo