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BWW Review: [TITLE OF SHOW] at Elkhart Civic Theater is good enough to make you hate theater

Playing live at the Bristol Opera House through April 18th

BWW Review: [TITLE OF SHOW] at Elkhart Civic Theater is good enough to make you hate theater

I walked into the Bristol Opera House on Senior Preview Night anticipating a show about shows aptly titled [title of show]. I'd neither listened to the soundtrack nor sought out the story prior to walking in the door so my perception of the evening's events was based mostly on my relationship with the performers. I have worked with 75% of the cast and other members of production as well. I am a supporter of Bristol Opera House and I appreciate their role in Elkhart County but I was there to see a show.

As someone who has acted on stage for 13 years and across varying environments, my experiences with productions as a product for the audience have ranged. They, too, have had a wide range in terms of personal experience. [title of show] as a product is a wonderful watch. Performers Sean Leyes & Cristian Marquez but particularly Roy Bronkema, Mimi Bell & Kristen Kinder are sincere pleasures to observe. They each bring a comfortable touch to some uncomfortable issues.

I, however, did not enjoy processing what I was being told. I didn't, at times, appreciate the experience of onstage characters. Perhaps my take-away was that the show seemed all too real.

The show is expertly performed. If you've been traumatized by theatre, though, it might not be for you. The very beginning moments with performer Roy Bronkema sets the stage as raw. It was so charming to see him fiddle around for a few seconds before focusing on the task at hand, a show.

There is no set, merely 5 chairs and a keyboard. I remember feeling like I was waiting for an audition. It felt like I was sitting there imaging all the things that could come from this experience. Hopes, dreams, a fun night, or maybe a fun few weeks thinking about it. Such hope colors the production of any show.

The show itself is about writers and a few friends who produce a show for a Broadway theater festival in New York City. The journey takes one act and approximately 90 minutes. The pacing was alright but too quick if anything. I felt moments for laughter weren't provided throughout a dense book. And I did laugh! There were great moments of physical comedy or surprise, and, yes, even some of the lines I did enjoy. If you're an easy laugher, this really is a show for you.

I was unsettled to hear so much cursing from the Bristol Opera House stage. Once again, I understand others eat it up. It violates my perception of the space and I'm sure it would violate the expectations of other audience members as well. My experiences in "professional" theatre spaces, however, align with such a representation.

Late in the show's run comes a joke which has sat with me for the last six days. The writer character refers to an unseen man sexually and, when told he is straight and therefore not a sexual option, responds that "spaghetti is straight until it's hot and wet."

I understand the value of humor but sexual harassment from the position of a Broadway writer is predatory and speaks to the lack of positive correlation between talent and character. As a victim of unprofessional boundaries in theater spaces, this too, made me consider whether or not I'm one of the "Vampires" these characters so much wish would die.

Kinder's performance of "Die, Vampire, Die" is what sealed the deal. She's an incredible watch and delivers with ease. However, the content of the piece is one of fun-sucking, no? I understand it's not fun to listen to a person talk about being sexually groomed or predated upon but it's also not fun for me/us to hear issues of sexual harassment framed as jokes.

Call me a "Campire," but post "Me Too" era jokes concerning sexual harassment in the entertainment industry cross the line from humor to reality. One must consider the dark nature of theatrical productions and power imbalances to truly appreciate the art form. This industry eats people up.

At the end of the day, these are issues that take place in any show and that's probably the point of [title of show]. Power is abused, performers are exploited. I'm most offended at the fact this show comments on how women are treated within theatre spaces without actually subverting the narrative by creating a more equitably designed piece of art. I was constantly waiting for Mimi or Kristen to walk back on stage.

If you like listening to wonderfully sung songs and watching expert-level acting this is the show for you. If you're a "Campire" who gets offended or unsettled by crass, line-crossing humor and the very real issues of abuse in the entertainment industry, then you might want to catch the next show. If you're someone, like me, who takes theatre and social science very seriously then the criticisms the show presents are quite clear. However, merely commenting upon harassment, sexism, and exploitation aren't enough. Where's the change? Maybe revisit the "Change it/Don't Change it" period, Mr. Writer.

[title of show] will complete its two-weekend run at The Bristol Opera House April 16, 17, & 18

Tickets may be purchased online or by calling (574) 848-4116 M-F between 1 PM and 5 PM.

Tickets are also available in person (CASH ONLY) from the Box Office, beginning one hour prior to each performance.

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