Friday night found me with a few options for local theatre, something that you can say with some regularity in the burgeoning theatre scene in our fair city. Music Theatre of Denton’s The Wedding Singer was soaring like a flock of seagulls and close by, Sundown Collaborative Theatre prepared to present their opening night of Far Away by Caryl Churchill in a sprawling house off of University.
House shows in Denton are nothing new, venues like Macaroni Island and Gatsby’s Mansion have presented plenty of live music, up close and personal, for the past few years. What makes this performance different, the scripted action and promenade style, set it apart from what other production companies in town are doing. Sundown has a history of producing in the Green Space Arts Collective off of Malone and Scripture. Moving this show to a house was a brilliant creative choice for director Tashina Richardson, who is making her way to Chicago in July.
Knowing the limited capacity of the venue, I arrived early and had a chance to chat with some members of the production team about the show. I purposefully didn't ask too much because I wanted to be able to experience the production without too much foreknowledge. Once the show started, the audience was led into the entry by a guard, Chloe McDowell, and asked to stand behind the spike tape on the floor. From there, things unfolded over the next hour that felt like something out of P. D. James’ “Children of Men,” aptly another UK voice looking forward at the not-so-pleasant future that might await us.
Young Joan (Bernier) has run away from home and come to stay with her aunt Harper(Lakner) and her uncle. She discovers that there is something going on with her uncle and refugees which results in the veil being torn from her eyes to see the war underneath, a war involving all of nature. Later scenes introduce Todd (Linder), a master hat maker who pulls Joan deeper into the cold, brutal, whimsical world of the play.
Churchill’s script is nonsensical, intriguing and full of tension; Richardson heightens that tension with the staging and herding of the audience through the house. Before entering, know that you will be close to your fellow audience members and close enough to be brushed by the actors as they pass. Wear sensible shoes as you will be standing for the duration of the performance!
After the show, I headed over to enjoy the rest of my night over at Harvest House, one of the new spots in town for craft beers, fancy cocktails and a view of the stars.
Far Away by Caryl Churchill
CAST Joan: Barbara Bernier Harper: Marygail Isobel Lakner Todd: Robert Linder Prisoners: Bethany Burnside, JJ Chakour, Antuan Dominguez, Sarah Hill, Melissa Karol, Thomas Loven, Chloe McDowell, Tucker McKinzie, Collin Miller, Lauren Moore, Irvin Moreno, Sarah Olivares, Amy Panduro, Steve Robert Pounds, Mandy Rausch, Tashina Richardson, Nicholas Ross, Chris Taylor, Shayleigh Ward
Director: Tashina Richardson Stage Managers: Chloe McDowell, Irvin Moreno Hat Designer for Joan and Todd: Lauren Moore Hat Designers for Video: Karen Bartlett, Amanda Carson Green, Lindsey Hall, Melissa Karol, Chloe McDowell, Irvin Moreno, Lauren Moore, Tashina Richardson, Paul Vaughn Producing Member: Mandy Rausch Video Director: Paul Vaughn Video Choreographer: Tashina Richardson