BWW Review: THE SECRET OF COURAGE at The Coterie Theatre
The Secret of Courage
The current production at The Coterie Theatre, in co-production with UMKC Theatre, is a fantasy adventure that inspires courage in the midst of difficulty. This heroic play written by Laurie Brooks is adapted from a short story "Imaginary Friends", written by her brother, author Terry Brooks. Deftly directed by Graham Whitehead, this story weaves images of present, past, and future through the imaginative use of live acting, visual projections, and larger than life characters. Young Jack McCall (played by Jay Love) has been having headaches and learns some very unsettling news about his health. His sidekick best friend Waddy (played by Roan Ricker) doesn't see the news so concerning since he's heard of lots of people who have recovered and been just fine. However, Jack can't shake his fears and is drawn into a mysterious place that blends fantasy and reality. As Jack's adventure unfolds he is reminded of imaginary friends from his childhood, an owl, an elf, a troll, and some ghostly apparitions. His fantasy world is wrought with fearsome things that his "friends" encourage him to battle. Just like the fears he has in reality, Jack learns that confronting what is frightening is the first step in winning the battle.
Jay Love plays Jack with just the right balance between fearful and brave. He takes on the struggle as his own early in the show setting the tone for his own personal battle at the conclusion. Jack must be a little sick so that the audience understands why he is afraid yet heroic enough to convince them that he is capable of winning in the end. Love, does just that as he energetically takes on the fantastical dark images that would seek to destroy him.
Roan Ricker's "Waddy" provides plenty of comedic moments that bring levity and laughter to the show. In what is a typical nonchalance of teenage playfulness, Ricker, gives a light-hearted balance to some of the more serious subject matter. His character also reveals the important role friendship has in life's more difficult times. Amy Billroth-MacLurg (as Mom), Megan Sells (as Dr. Claudia Mueller), Charlie Spillers (as Uncle Frank), Heather Michele Lawler (as Dierdre), Duncan McIntyre (as Pick), Ken Sandberg (as Wartag), and Rafael Toribio (as Keokuk) round out the cast.
Most notable about this production is the blending of live action and special effects. Through the use of sound effects, foggy mist, a broad range of lighting effects, and projected media the Coterie, along with UMKC transform the space into a truly imaginative world. The luminous trees branch from the stage over the audience seeming to draw them into the ever-unfolding story. Imposing characters emerge from behind the twisted and gnarled trees in a swirl of mist in the moonlight. The art of this show elevates an already dramatic story to a level of pure enchantment. The timing of combining the live action with special effects was produced with flawless perfection adding to the wonder this show brings. This play is recommended for audiences 11 years of age and older, however, it should be noted that some of the images and shadows appear eerie and ghostly which may surprise some viewers. Even though the subject matter has a serious tone, the message is one of courage and hope that is both captivating and inspiring.
Adding to the success of this show are the other members of the production team including William J. Christie and Danielle Walsh (production stage managers), Mark A Exline (set designer), Bryce Foster and Shane Rowse (lighting Designers), L.A. Clevenson (costume designer), Jeffery Cady (projections Designer), Shannon Barondeau (Associate Projections Designer), Wallace McCanles and Maddie Rowe (sound designers), Hunter Andrews (UMKC technical director), Sandra Lopez and Selena Gonzalez-Lopez (properties), Kate Hershberger (UMKC production assistant), and Elizabeth Sampley (Coterie production assistant).
"The Secret of Courage" performs at the Coterie Theatre in Crown Center, at 2450 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO January 23 - February 11, 2018. For tickets call the box office at (816) 474-6552 or online: www.thecoterie.org
Photos by J. Robert Schraeder courtesy of Coterie Theatre