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BWW Review: JEST A SECOND at Cherry Creek Theatre


Coming out is a drag.

BWW Review: JEST A SECOND at Cherry Creek Theatre

Coming out is hardly ever easy. The build up to the reveal, even down to the very second that the words, "I'm gay" leave your lips can make it feel like as soon as you say it, everything that you built up in your mind will immediately come cascading down like an avalanche. Such a moment is where we find ourselves in Cherry Creek Theatre's latest production, Jest a Second.

This production is a "well-oiled" machine. All the pieces fit with the actors on stage acting as the cogs in the wheel turning nicely and relying on each other to keep the pace moving forward. Rachel Turner as Sarah demonstrates a high level of skill throughout the performance, though it took me a moment to settle in to some of her individual character choices. However, she remained steadfast and convicted in the role which coerced me to get on board. As the actor husband, Bob, Austin Lazek, so too, exhibited a comfortability with the stage and the role. However, I wasn't fully sold on the character himself via the writing itself. Bob spends a significant portion of the play in female drag for reasons that are rather ostentatious and far-fetched.

As Joel, Andy Dus stands alongside Turner and Lazek with a level of comfortability on the stage, even while basking in the role of a character who is on the precipice of putting forth a revelation. At times though, I felt like the portrayal of anxiety prompted him to continually move around the stage, pacing mindlessly. At times, it was rather distracting. As the 11th hour character reveal, Ryan Omar Stack as Dr. Rosen is in a word, charming, in the role. Stacks had quite the task in joining the other players on stage so late in the game when the others had already "set the stage" with their Act 1 antics. He does a nice job of fitting himself into the mold. Though between Stacks and Dus, whose characters are in a relationship, I felt virtually no chemistry. There was a sense of intimacy that seemed to miss the mark. One moment that could've been a staged kiss was simply an awkward hug. As a member of the queer community, I found myself watching to seemingly straight actors portraying gay characters and I believe that in today's culture queer roles belong to queer actors. Admittedly, however, these gentleman could also identify as members of the LGBTQ community and should this be the case, I will happily put my foot in my mouth.

Chris Kendall as the father, Abe, was such a delight to watch, truly at home as the caring man of few words who does what his wife tells him to do, though perhaps not without the occasional eye role. As the mother, Miriam, Pamela Clifton steals the show and my own heart. Her genuine nature of that of a caring mother paired with such an understanding of comedic wit and timing was exactly what I didn't know I needed. The role itself calls for such comedy, but there are also moments of vulnerability and worry that Clifton handles so skillfully.

Under the direction of M. Curtis Grittner, the production elements of the show were clean and precise. Cherry Creek Theatre has a solid reputation for transforming the small black box theatre at the Mizel into a sizable set fit for intimacy. My one area of criticism, however, lays with the smaller details of the scenic design. Towards the beginning of the show I found myself pondering, "When ARE we?" It wasn't until the pagers came out that I had a better sense of the timeline. Other production elements such as Costume Design by Susan Rahmsdorff-Terry, Props by Lindsay Sullivan, and Lighting by Patrick Hinchliffe all added to the production in simple, thoughtful ways.

As a gay man sitting in the audience, I found myself uncomfortable toward the beginning of the production. Joel comes out as gay at the very top of the show. While sitting among what is your typical audience demographic, I sat with anticipation for someone to react negatively to what was being put before their eyes. I am happy to report that I saw no such reactions among my fellow theatregoers. I think the show does a good job of not only "dropping the bomb" at the very start, but also normalizing the reactions of those straight family members who have loved ones come out to them. The show also takes a few different moments to discuss what other sort of experiences queer people have when they come out of the closet told through a lens of "the negative reactions some people have to such news is not okay." Clifton has a moment in the second act where she says, "You are Jewish. And there are people out there who HATE you because you're Jewish. You're also gay. And there are people out there who HATE you because you're gay." Mounting such a show with a such message from the very first scene when you know your audience may or may not approve is admirable for Cherry Creek Theatre because there is almost a guarantee that someone in the audience is someone who needs to see this show. Someone who needs to feel the influence of change through theatre.

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