October 20, 2017

“Colorado” Review-Vanguard Arts Collective launches a winner at The Edge Theater

Matt Schutz, Shelby Garrett, Kristen Alesia and Brian McKnight in Vanguard Arts Collective's "Colorado" at the Edge Theater

 Playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s “Colorado”, 2004, now in production and a first launch by Vanguard Arts Collective at the Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway through July 9th is a thought-provoking as well as extremely entertaining production.  Splash Editor/Publisher Barbara Keer and this reviewer attended the opening July 1 and were immediately taken by the play and the cast and we recommend it highly. Chicago is replete with theater companies and the North Side holds a plethora of small venues, but the Edge is remarkable for it’s ease in accessibility, including street parking, its attractive 119-seat proscenium house, and the fine viewing from every one of its comfortable seats.

                                                      The cast of Vanguard Arts Collective’s “Colorado”

The stagecraft- from soft lighting, to appropriate costumes, to the clever use of props/furniture in the performance space, was a welcome adjunct to a really well done theater experience. This was tightly directed fine acting with lots of spot-on physical comedy. At times laugh-out-loud funny, at others grim and thought provoking, this rendition of a ferociously smart piece held us in its grip.

The playwright is well known for intellectually message-laden, funny and sarcastic contemporary send-ups, and this one is no exception.  Nachtrieb has written that this is a play about big dreams and big obstacles, about American Dreams, about escape, about disappointment, and about the line between comedy and tragedy in our lives.

Kristen Alesia, Matt Schutz and Shelby Garrett in the Vanguard Arts Collective’s production of “Colorado” at the Edge Theater

“I want to use this crown to change the world! If I can change just one life, one little insignificant life, I think it will justify the beauty that God has given me”. Acceptance speech, Tracey Ackhart, Miss late Teen Colorado

Tracey is a mean and nasty teenage version of a JonBenet Ramsey wannabe. Played with really vicious sex appeal by Kristen Alesia, she torments her younger brother, brilliantly portrayed by Matt Schutz, whose least problem is his incipient homosexuality. Their lifeless father, acted with a wealth of deadpan matter-of-factness by Brian McKnight, calmly “dislikes” the wife he was forced to marry, the smarmy stagemom who fascinates us with her sheer creepiness, played by Shelby Garrett. Together, the family members form a strange quartet of mutually hapless smoldering resentment. From the cauldron of their too closely connected anger and frustration stunning revelations emerge in sharply worded explicit dialogue. The character-revealing monologues alone are worth the price of admission, as we are taken on an emotional rollercoaster of memories, yearnings and personality disorder.

                                                                   Matt Schutz as Travis

The whole is a cynically accurate and timely American tapestry/travesty, which the playbill advises us is currently being staged because “We’re living in a tense political climate; one that seems to be encroaching more and more on many Americans hopes and dreams”.

 

Matt Schutz, Shelby Garrett and Brian McKnight in Vanguard Arts Collective’s production of “Colorado” at the Edge Theater

Kudos to: director Chris Owens for shaping the dark vision; costume designer Hanna Wisner (loved the bathing suit with the hole for the belly button) for clothing the deeds; set and properties designer Megan Cheney for the home we’d like to be buried in; sound designer Joe Palermo for the ultimate talking head of Maury Povich; lighting designer Michael Goebel for hitting each spot; and stage managers Kaylee Roach and Cody Perriset for effortless transitions from bathroom to the dais.

 

                                                                    Kristen Alesia as Tracey

For information go to www.edgetheater.com

Tickets are $15; donations are appreciated, and there will no programs distributed in an effort to preserve paper.

 

All photos by Michael Banks of Banks Design and Photography

 

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