BWW Review: THE FRIENDLY HOUR at Theatre Midwest: A Theatre Is Born
As I start my 5th month of reviewing Des Moines Theatre, I can't help but think about how each theatre brings its own unique voice to Des Moines and the surrounding areas. With as many voices as there are, there are still more stories that can be told. A few months ago, I started hearing about a new theatre forming called Theatre Midwest. I was excited to see a new voice come to the Des Moines theatre scene. Last night, May 9th, they officially opened their first show, "The Friendly Hour" by Tom Jacobson.
Theatre Midwest is like other theatres in the area in having a goal to produce high-quality entertainment. Where they narrow down the shows they will do in their mission. Their mission is to be Professionals creating works of relevance to people of the Midwestern United States, with particular attention to the voices of women and under-represented groups. And they are starting by removing barriers such as affordability. At each performance, at least ¼ of the tickets will have no cost, while tickets are available. If you want to make sure that you see the show, and are guaranteed a ticket, you can purchase a ticket in advance for $30.
While it takes place over a long period of time, what surprised me most about this show, is how relevant it felt to current events, and how much the story felt like it could have taken place here in Iowa. If they hadn't said South Dakota a few times in the show, then it could have taken place here. "The Friendly Hour" by Tom Jacobson, is about a group of friends meet weekly over the course of 70 years. We get to see how the current events of each time affect their lives, and the ways they deal with issues of religion, politics, relationships, and loss.
Coming into the theatre, the first thing I noticed was the projection screens they were using. During the preshow, the projections help with setting the show at a farmhouse. Being above the action, it makes it easy for the projections to blend into what is happening and not steal focus from the show. As the show started, I found the only time I looked up at what was on the screens was during scene changes. That is a testament to the direction of Tom Woldt, as well as the acting of the 5 amazing women in this show.
While all 5 actresses gave tremendous performances, there were two of them that stood out to me. The first was Deidra Mohr who plays a total of 8 characters in the show. She is the only person tasked with playing multiple roles. I appreciated the subtle nuances she brought to each character she played. The subtleness made it easy to transition to each character while making each character stand out on their own. Throughout I found myself wanting to see more of her different characters, and it became a fun game of guessing how many people she was going to appear as in one scene.
The other performance that stood out to me was Jami Bassman Ahart as Dorcas Briggle. Her character was the heart of the show. From the top of the show, you see the pain she goes through after she comes up with the idea of the group and someone else ends up the president. It is a moment that everyone in the audience could probably relate to. As the show goes on, her character takes on more types of pain, yet she makes each one relatable even if you haven't been in the situation she is dealing with. Her depth as an actress shows the most in act 2 when her character talks about her daughter sharing her big news. thoughts that go through her characters head are thoughts that I could see going through any midwestern parents head. When her daughter goes through a horrific event Jami's performance truly showed the depths she could take the character to when her character shared how she felt about the event, and after she was done I don't know that there was a dry eye in the house.
"The Friendly Hour" was such a moving show, and if Theatre Midwest keeps putting up productions the way they did with this, then I see the longevity that they can and will have. This is a show that you can take your family to and would be a great gift to take your mother to this weekend. The cast, directing, and production values make this show an unforgettable experience that you won't want to miss. Theatre Midwest production of "The Friendly Hour" runs through Sunday. To find out more about Theatre Midwest or "The Friendly Hour" visit https://www.theatremidwest.org/