Spark Theater Media and Press Articles

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By Claire Martin of The Denver Post. Review was featured online and in the newspaper print edition on 10/24/14.  Read the Review

Marlowe’s Musings

Monday, September 22, 2014

        Spark Theater: 9/6 – 9/27
     You have only one weekend left to catch up with director Linda Suttle and her delightful mash-up of Agatha Christie and Noel Coward in Spark Theatre’s hilarious production of Rob Urbinati’s “Death by Design.”
      The show begins as a playwright and his actress wife retreat to their home in Cookham after a hideous London opening night. Owen Niland and Michelle Grimes do a beautiful job inhabiting the roles of this constantly bickering couple with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. Shortly after their arrival at Cookham an odd assortment of guests arrives including a politician, a socialist, a myopic ingénue and a zany modern dancer. Of course they all have secrets that come out when Bridgit, the quirky Irish maid sets out to solve a dastardly crime. LuAnn Buckstein steals the show with her hysterically funny portrayal of Victoria, the eccentric dancer. Victoria is brought to vivid life by Ms. Buckstein’s inimitable virtuosity in the realm of physical comedy. As her character sinks further and further into an alcoholic stupor Buckstein’s physiology does everything from attaching itself barnacle-like to the back wall of the playing space to tying itself in knots as she attempts to seat herself in a drawing room chair . Buckstein is a genius of the comic variety and worth the price of admission all on her own.
     Deborah Curtis is hilarious as the maid who turns into a sort of Miss Marple of the domestic  variety. Such fine actors as Brad Wagner, Andrew Black, James Thompson and Kristen Mair take to the stage in the other wacky roles.
     There are plenty of red herrings and false endings and the chuckling in Act One does become more an audience guffaw as the chaos begins to unravel itself in Act Two.
     One must mention the costume design by Kati Oltyan. The choices of costumes and millinery for Ms. Grimes are delightful. Those for Ms. Buckstein are stupefyingly funny!
                  Marlowe’s Musings

Review: “Shakespeare to the Death” dark, with moments of black comedy

* * * ½ stars (Out of 4)

By Claire Martin
The Denver Post

POSTED:   07/29/2014 02:54:30 PM MDT
The cast of Spark Theater’s "Shakespeare to the Death."

The cast of Spark Theater’s “Shakespeare to the Death.” (Provided by Spark Theater)

Spark Theater’s muscular “Shakespeare to the Death,” unlike its predecessor, “Shakespeare to the Letter,” is dark, if not dead serious.

The gifted cast present famous (and not so famous) death scenes by tackling the material head-on. Don’t expect a reprise of “To the Letter,” which exploited the comic possibilities of the letters upon which so many Shakespearean plots revolve.

There are moments of black comedy, and a running gag involves updating a cumulative body count. But the excerpts from dramas stay true to the originals.

So the scene of Cordelia’s death in “King Lear” is raw with grief, as Randy Diamon finds the stricken father inside Lear’s majesty and madness. Desdemona’s death (“Othello”) disturbingly invokes domestic abuse.

There are flashes of grim humor in the death scene from “Romeo and Juliet” — not the famous one, but a sword fight between the Montague and Capulet gangs, dispatching unnamed extras.

Director Roger Winn, who also directed “To the Letter,” chose the death scenes for novelty, with a view to showcasing “some of the more creative ways the Bard disposed of some of his characters.”

That makes the pie scene from “Titus Andronicus” practically mandatory. “Titus,” a disaster of continuity, shines in the bizarre ways that characters are maimed or injured, with ajust-deserts scene that combines murder, cannibalism and vicious wit.

One exception to all this morbidity: The excerpt from “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yes, there is a death (Pyramus) in that brief play-within-a-play dependably popular at the annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare festival.

The Spark company totally nails it, interpreting the fumbling itinerate actors as scene-stealing buffoons, victims of stage fright, or bored drunkards. Doe-eyed Sidney Morss makes the most of her improbable part as the Wall that stands between lovers Thisbe (Sam Reiter) and Pyramus (Paul Backer).

All this takes place right at the knees of the front row. At one point, Gracen Porreca (whose repertoire of British accents is stellar) only needs to step back a foot to take an empty seat in the front row. (There are only about 30 seats, arranged in two narrow rows of 15 chairs.)

Taking advantage of this intimacy, director Winn offers audience members a chance to juggle the order of the death scenes by moving magnetized play titles on a board. I’m guessing that “Midsummer” or “Titus Andronicus” usually find their way to the bottom, leaving audiences with a chuckle instead of the despair that ends the “Lear” and “Hamlet” excerpts.

“Shakespeare to the Death” is lively enough to serve as date night fare, and substantial enough to please die-hard fans who’ll also appreciate the bawdy humor that insinuates itself into even inappropriate moments.

Claire Martin: 303-954-1477, cmartin@denverpost.com or twitter.com/byclairemartin


SHAKESPEARE TO THE DEATH | 3.5 stars Scenes from nine Shakespeare plays, directed by Roger Winn. Featuring Paul Backer, Randy Diamon, Aaron Lede, Sidney Morss, Anne Myers, Gracen Porreca, Krista Rayne Reckner, Sam Reiter, Charis Beth Swartley and Melissa Valdez.

Reviews for Three Sisters

Called an “instant classic” and “breathtaking” Three Sisters received glowing reviews by David Marlo, BroadwayWorld, and 2 Henry Award Nominations!

Reviews for Dangerous Liaisons!

Great notices from David Marlowe – Out Front Colorado. Dangerous Liaisons Is a Bold Yet Intimate Evening according to He Said/She Said This staging enhances the intimacy of the play, and subtly pushes the audience toward an interesting sort of voyeurism. There is the obvious voyeurism of watching a sexually-charged story that features nudity, but there is a more complex voyeurism of seeing difficult things, but not being able to look away because it is right there – you feel a part of the scene. said Craig Williamson – North Denver Tribune And Michael Mulhern – BroadwayWorld.com said it was full of Sex, drugs, deceit…and delicious dialogue!

Plus the Dangerous Liaisons cast sat down with Eden Lane on InFocus. Watch it here!

Plus additional features about Spark Theater and the Denver Theater Scene

When Did Live Theater Get So Small? – March 27th
In Colorado, an unexpected arts building boom – April 9th
SparkStudio: Theater is back on Broadway – February 25th
Meet Denver’s New Spark Theater – March 7th

For press inquiries, please contact: info@SparkTheater.org