BWW Reviews: Denver Center's MAP OF HEAVEN

By: Feb. 09, 2011

Map of Heaven receives its first full production after being read at the Colorado New Play Summit in February 2010. Michele Lowe explores the dynamics of relationships and what happens when those dynamics shift, the choices the characters make and the ripple effect it has on those around them. Lena's painting career is on the rise, her beautiful maps of places real and imaginary are poised to take New York by storm. But when her radiologist husband makes a fatal decision, Lena's life is upended. A contemporary story with devastating repercussions, Map of Heaven explores the overwhelming consequences of a single lapse in ethical judgment.

This show is not one of rash decisions, but rather one of reflection and insight. When the play ended, my initial insight was pessimistic, I felt like I wanted more and felt the play was incomplete. Where was the climax, cartharsis, healing and  conclusion? But upon further reflection, I realized that the play was more organic and closer to real life than a serialized drama. I also enjoyed the smaller scenes that wove within the plot. I truly appreciated this fact and commend playwright Michelle Lowe for a beautiful script. I asked her what this was based on and she informed me that this while this was not based on personal experiences, the situations were influenced by people close to her.

While I thought about the grand scheme of this drama, one word hit me.....Intersecting. Like longitude and latitude on a map, the characters lives intersect each other (whether they realize it or not) and for better or worse, they are brought together in light of a tragedy. When you really think about it, did Michelle Lowe actually create a map with this play?

Spotlights in the show were Jessica Love as the gregarious sister, Jen and Angela Reed's moving performance as Rebecca. It was fun to watch the relationship between the outspoken sister and stoic brother and made for some very touching scenes. The transformation of Angela Reeds character from the strong and confident art gallery owner to the devestated sister was one of the standout performances of the night.

A special recognition needs to go out to the scenic designer, David M. Barber. His attention to detail in the artist's loft was quite remarkable and using a moveable floor to glide in and out the smaller scenes made the transitions effortless. He also went as far as to make to proscenium arch outlining the stage into a map, which doesn't really have a lasting impact till the end of the show when the lights go up. Director Evan Cabnet, in his Denver Center debut does a wonderful job with the staging, adding to the flow of the intricate smaller scenes throughout the play. This touching show is not to be missed.

Map of Heaven plays through February 26th. For tickets of more information, please go to or call the  Denver Center box office at 303-893-4100.

Photo Credit:  Terry Shapiro

Stephanie Janssen as Lena Gates

Stephanie Janssen as Lena Gates and Jessica Love as Jen

Quentin Mare and Stephanie Janssen as Ian and Lena Gates

Quentin Mare as Ian Gates and Jessica Love as his sister, Jen

Angela Reed as Rebecca