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

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