BWW Review: WHISPER SWEETLY at Brelby - A Weekend of Perovich Part II

BWW Review: WHISPER SWEETLY at Brelby - A Weekend of Perovich Part II

This is the final piece in a two-part series, 'A Weekend of Perovich'.

From Part I:

John Perovich is a Phoenix Metro institution, despite his tender age (34). Since the advent of this regional correspondent/critic covering theatre in the region, there is scarcely a project of which she's been aware that isn't in some way touched by John Perovich. If he's not the author, director or one of the actors, he's some kind of consultant or thanked in the program.

Last weekend, this critic attended two performances (on assignment for BWW), and one was written and the other directed by Perovich.

In the second installment, this critic reviews Devon Mahon's vivid and macabre first full length play, Whisper Sweetly, directed with crackerjack control and precision by Perovich.

Mahon has created a world that is at once funny and terrifying. He has approached his creation with wild abandon, and the story is an hilarious nightmare.

According to the production's website:

Whisper Sweetly unveils the untold origin story of the importance behind one's observing of Daylight Saving Time. In a small village in a forest not far from the edge of town Abbott struggles to stay awake during the crucial hours of Daylight Saving. Anyone who drifts into a sleep risks the loss of their soul and body to those Catchers who feed off of dreams. It's a tale of discovery, the sacrifice of loved ones, and bags upon bags of coffee.

Strikingly resonant with the feel of German Expressionist films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Metropolis, Perovich's production fills to the brim but doesn't overwhelm the small stage in historic downtown Glendale.

The show boasts some strong design work.

Cody Seaver's set and props employ no simply applied aesthetics. All components are visually powerful and functional.

The lighting - Kendra Schroeder's pronounced use of stark light and shadow - is the most potent touchstone to Whisper Sweetly's stylistic inspiration.

Schroeder's excellent sound design is reminiscent of the audio components of horror movies and many Twilight Zone episodes.

Allison Bauer created the costumes, hair and makeup for Whisper Sweetly, and the integrated design is pervasive. The costumes are delightful, which is an odd term to use for anything associated with such an ungodly project, but they are - whimsical, even. The makeup serves the piece brilliantly. Bauer has painted - literally - the faces of Whisper's actors with a broad, saturated brush. The effect is profound.

The five-actor ensemble functions with brave commitment to the difficult material, within Perovich's muscular, demanding direction.

Chelsea Jauregui is Abbott, the play's protagonist. She is a lovely, bright young woman caught - metaphorically - in a black widow's web. Jauregui elicits deep empathy, a requisite for the central character in any psychological thriller.

As Abbott's mother, Anita, Jessica Holt is excellent, with an appealing and commanding presence.

Debra Lyman plays the Mayor and part of the creepy gaggle of Catchers. Lyman has a wonderfully articulate body - she has a mature, powerful voice that - at appropriate times - shakes the rafters.

Clayton Caufman has intense, deep set eyes and brings a disturbing, brooding quality to the Catcher group and to his featured character, called Conn.

As the priest, George Gonzales is a comforting, warm, solid energy. When he is an essential element in the horrifying Catcher gang, he is acutely indifferent to the suffering of others.

Kudos to author Mahon and director Perovich for creating such a strong piece of indie theatre in the West Valley.

Whisper Sweetly plays September 22, 23, 29 and30 at 7:30pm and Sept 24 at 2pm. Tickets are available HERE.

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