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BWW Feature: MASH NOTE TO SIDE SHOW at Swift Creek Mill Theatre

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BWW Feature: MASH NOTE TO SIDE SHOW at Swift Creek Mill TheatreIt was back in 2008, so the memories are not full of specifics, but I remain awed by Swift Creek Mill's production of "Side Show." Written by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger, this challenging 1997 musical focused on the real-life story of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins born in 1908 who were exhibited as circus freaks and then became vaudeville stars.

One might say this way an unusual choice for Swift Creek's Tom Width, who directed the show and designed the set. But Width has always seemed eager to stretch, and to ask his audience to do the same.

The music for this show--nearly sung through--is beautiful, and there was a dream cast singing it. Angie Shipley and Robyn O'Neill played the twins; Brett Ambler and Michael Hawke were their love interests. Jason Marks was the nasty sideshow owner, and Dustin Faltz was the twins' protector.

My review from that time reminds me that Shipley and O'Neill--in the roles originated by Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley--masterfully created the illusion of twinship through voice and movement. The show itself is structured to help us understand their separate personalities and yearnings. And excellent musical direction by Paul Deiss and lighting by Joe Doran enhanced the production.

I remember it as a disturbing, moving, thought-provoking piece. It sticks with me.

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And on the topic of disturbing shows, one that got away: Firehouse Theatre's production of "A Bright New Boise" in 2012. I was in San Diego by then. I had seen this dark play by Samuel D. Hunter at Woolly Mammoth in DC in 2011. I well remember the mercury-vapor parking-lot light that loomed over the set in that production, as well as the churning atmosphere of despair that suffused the characters. I would have loved to see what director Morrie Piersol did with the play, to have seen Billy-Christopher Maupin and Jill Bari Steinberg and Audra Honaker in the roles.


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From This Author Susan Haubenstock