BWW Blog: Jessica Vanek - Audiences Applaud Cockroach Theatre's SPINNING INTO BUTTER
Jess here. I recently saw my first show at Cockroach Theatre, a well-established theatre company located here in Las Vegas. SPINNING INTO BUTTER by Rebecca Gilman exposes current social issues through an honest story that could, in reality, have taken place in Anywhere, USA. This play dealt with concepts not normally portrayed on a stage, and delivered a powerful punch that left the audience enlightened. The story is set at fictional Belmont College in Vermont, and explores racial issues that college campuses sometimes face. The show begins with Sarah Daniels, a Dean who is trying to get a student to lie about his ethnicity so he will be a stronger candidate for a scholarship. She does this with the best intentions, but it's not taken well by the student, Patrick Chibas. Meanwhile Simon (a character in name only), an African-American student attending the predominantly white Belmont College, reports a series of hate crimes being inflicted upon him. Dean Daniels along with two other Deans struggle to fix the issue, yet against Dean Daniels' better judgment, decide that a campus-wide forum is the best way to remedy the situation. Ultimately, the forum is a huge failure, and results in more of a divide than it began with. Dean Daniels continues to try to do what's right, but struggles with the process due to her subconscious racism. This story discusses the complexity of race and discrimination and how, despite the outlawing of segregation, America still struggles to treat all races equally.
I'd like to applaud the performance of Kim Glover as Dean Sarah Daniels. She demonstrated incredible skill when tackling such a complex character. She created distinct relationships with each individual actor which helped to diversify her performance. It takes a well-educated person, let alone actor, to carry such a socially relevant piece on their shoulders, and she did just that, which resulted in the audience being enlightened about a topic that is often brushed under the rug. I'd also like to acknowledge the compelling performance of Marcus Martinez as Patrick Chibas. His character represented an entire community of people who are voiceless, and his driven artistry defined this and helped to make a difference. The fact that this play could have been set in any time period and at any location is quite alarming, as this story addresses social issues by starting conversations that should have been resolved long ago.
Director Darren Weller cast this show with a keen eye. In addition to the actors mentioned above, his choice to present Susan Lowe as Dean Catherine Kenney was well-received, as her multi-layered character challenged the audience consider a new viewpoint when dealing with racially based issues. Geo Nikols as Professor Ross Collins was an excellent choice as well. He demonstrated the development of a character that the audience could definitely relate to. I also appreciated the talent of Emma Johnston. Her musical transitions and beautiful voice kept the show moving between scenes.
All of the technical aspects of the show were spot on. The set design by Rachel Smallwood and Darren Weller was functional and aesthetically pleasing. The lighting design by John Wampler was simple, yet very effective in directing the audience where to place their attention.
Spinning Into Butter is an extremely important piece of work, and I'm glad that Cockroach Theatre decided to select it as part of their season. I would like to commend the work of everyone involved, and thank them for creating such a compelling production.
"Your life has made you beautiful. Your suffering has made you fine." -Stephen Sondheim