Award winning, North Carolina educated and based playwright Allan Maule has served up a witty and delightful comedy with serious social overtones in his new show, EverScape, whose North Carolina premiere is being jointly presented on Oct. 6-23 by Bare Theatre and Sonorous Road Theatre. The play was a smash hit at the 2015 New York Fringe Festival (FringeNYC), a fact which is easy to understand.
Even we Septuagenarians were able to identify with most of the “techie” parts and certainly all the nihilisms people growing up in America during the last fifty-odd years have been experiencing. EverScape is being produced, directed, and performed by members of Bare Theatre, widely known in the area for their excellent and innovative staging of Shakespearean works, and co-produced by Sonorous Road Productions.
Director Heather J. Strickland claims that the need to escape is a part of being human, that it gives us the opportunity to create, and that we could all stand a bit more humanity these days. She then gives substance to her philosophy by extracting from her actors hilarious and soul-crunching performances, augmented by Jason Bailey’s thrilling fight choreography. The intimacy of the Sonorous Road Theatre makes the melees virtually “in-your-face” confrontations.
When the curtain rises, four “millennial types,” trudging along at jobs that they consider meaningless, escape their daily drudgery by uniting as a team in an overly real role-playing game. They become so good that the game managers offer them an opportunity to “win” jobs designing such fantasy video games, by reaching the top level of a game specially built for them. Things get out hand, and the distinction between real and imaginative falters.
We are not aficionados of the role-playing video game world, which in no wise diminished our enjoyment of the show. Although a brief crash-course — via Google, of course — did not broaden our knowledge a lot, it showed how much a show which could be said to be over our heads could still be dyne-o-mite entertainment. We obviously enjoyed the humor, which ranged from broad to pretty subtle, and the personal relationships among the characters, which are universal.
The ensemble consists of Sean A. Brosnahan, Samantha Corey, Areon Mobasher, Chris Hinton, Hilary Edwards, Tara Nicole Williams, Matt Fields, and George Labusohr. Their timing, both of lines and hostile actions, is impeccable; their diction is elocutionary; their characterizations are real.
Actress Tara Nicole Williams also designed the show’s costumes to be readily adaptable for transforming real-life characters into game-players and back again. Music designer Rod Abernathy sculpted appropriate music in with G. Todd Buker’s sound effects to fill out the atmosphere.
The props, consisting of a variety of swords, daggers, maces, lances, and bows, are provided by Ann Marie Crosmun, and are all deadly and swung with intense force (but amazingly safely), which heightens the thrills of the audience.
Lighting designer Brett Stegall keeps us all in the light and in the dark and in various degrees of either to enhance the experience.
This partnership between Bare Theatre and Sonorous Road Productions is a perfect way to escape the ever-present frustrations and anxieties that are surrounding us these days. We’d like to see more of these collaborations.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 7th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article106772777.html; and Oct. 5th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/everscape/Event?oid=5068324. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 11th Triangle Review review by Dustin K. Britt, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/10/allan-maules-ingenious-everscape-is-the-theatrical-event-of-the-season/.)
Bare Theatre and Sonorous Road Productions present EVERSCAPE at 8 p.m. Oct. 13-15, 2 p.m. Oct. 16, 8 p.m. Oct. 20-22, and 2 p.m. Oct. 23 at Sonorous Road Theatre, 209 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27605.
TICKETS: $18 ($10 students and $15 seniors and active-duty military personnel).
EverScape (2015 New York International Fringe Festival play): http://everscapetheplay.weebly.com/ (official website).
Heather J. Strickland (Raleigh, NC director and Bare Theatre community engagement director): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570185297 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.