On Walden Pond
Staged on a weathered pier jutting out into the mind’s-eye of Walden Pond. Panels of stark, naked tree limbs framed in clear blue skies line the pier. A serene, quieting set, the exact opposite to that of 19th century Transcendentalist literary figures resurrected in Salt Lake Acting company’s blissful production of Charm: Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Combined fact and imagination, playwright Kathleen Cahill’s interpretation and the believable performances are aptly quirky, at times outrageous and, of course, charming.
Fuller (Cheryl Gaysunas) is seen, first and foremost, as spirited, wide-eyed and lives-life-to-the-fullest, and secondary, a feminist and an intellectual, with an obsessive masculine body image; Thoreau (Robert Scott Smith), a quick-witted naturist, bug-lover and believer in simple living; Hawthorne (Brik Berkes), shy and easily agitated (and whose stiff personality reminded me of a nutcracker), and prone to skepticism; and Emerson (Nicholas Wuehrmann), a bit of a chauvinist (he actually changed his wife Lydia’s name to Lydian).
Cahill introduces Fuller’s excited individualism to the others in sharply and humorously written scenes. And Fuller’s rebellious nature to social, sexual and gender norms gives question to the others’ own expressions, including Thoreau’s sexuality and Emerson’s classism (in fact, Emerson eventually hires Fuller as the first female editor of the Transcendentalist journal The Dial).
Cahill’s script includes some unusual and entertaining supporting characters, also well-casted by director Meg Gibson, including Orestes Brownson (Max Robinson), George Parker (one of my faves, Jay Perry) and Lydian Emerson (the very funny Jayne Luke). Plus, areas of the script are blatantly historically incorrect: it includes, among others, Fuller in a Speedo one-piece swimsuit and swim cap.
Gibson’s direction is seamless, making favorable use of the limited set. Plus, Gibson adds some comic visual touches to the script: Fuller returns from swimming in Walden Pond covered in plastic pond grasses; and the use of title cards for displaying subtitled Italian-language lines.
The costumes, designed by Brenda Van Der Weil, are exquisite and era specific (less the Speedos). I particularly love Fuller’s blue (with a brown hue that compliments the set) silk dress and matching underskirt that covers nearly the entire stage.
Charm is an endearing tribute to Margaret Fuller, a brilliant, outspoken woman of her time, and whether you’re man or woman you’ll walk away from this show with an incredible respect for her.
Charm runs through May 9, Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North. Tickets $12–33, 801-363-7522 or saltlakeactingcompany.org.
Parkites are Shameless, Infectious in Their Follies
“You’re probably a Parkite if you think an evening of great entertainment is watching non-Parkites figure out how to get to Walmart from McDonald’s.”
A small, but recurring theme in the 10th Annual Park City Follies is the ocassional playful bashing of those who live outside the town’s ornately rustic and chandelier adorned bubble. Jokingly referred to as “those dickheads in the Valley,” parkites appear to have no shame. Well, they don’t, not even when it comes to themselves, which is apparent in this laugh-out-loud parody of all things Park City.
Created and performed by a slew of locals, this year’s Follies, called ‘Infectious,’ makes no apologies to its sponsors. In fact, the recently-erected “90 million dollar” luxury hospital is the central buffoon, though the show also jabs local politicians, and local media and television personalities. The random Parkite is also not immune, especially those with treehouses and yard flamingos.
The Follies is a sort of General Hospital–The X-Files hybrid of absurdity and overt conspiracy. POSH, the new boob-and-knee hospital opens under the care of head surgeon Dr. Hungwell and head nurse Hatchett. When a bleached-blond, leopard-print-clad, Dooney Burke bag-carrying Stepford Wife-Parkite comes in with an embarrassing infliction diagnosed as SOS, Spontaneous Orgasm Syndrome — deemed a side effect of the drink supplement Moana-Me — an evil plot ensues. Also, when Park Record reporter Rick Buff investigates the unusual necessity for all POSH patients to undergo an MRI, yet another evil plot is ployed.
Theatre-goers are treated to extremely funny dance performances before each of the two acts. The PC Rockin’ Realtorettes, about a dozen or more local realtors, open the show with no inhibition or much talent, which is what makes it so wonderful.
The storyline becomes uninspired in it’s generality, though getting to that cusp and back down is hilarious and energetic. The bleach-blond attending nurses, especially the one in drag, are hysterical. Park City Mayor Dana Williams’ final scene will have you throwing you arms in the air in disbelief. And in the end, non-Parkites (I think I may have been the only one there for preview night) will want to jump at the chance at becoming one; though I, as a gay man, don’t think I could, because apparently I’d have to wear “a special fleece jacket to formal occasions.” I don’t think so! On the other hand I do know the meaning of the term lymph in PC’s slanguage.