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BWW Review: OPEN BY CRYSTAL SKILLMAN CAST A MAGICAL SPELL at TAMPARep

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K. SOTAKOUN IS AT THEIR PRIME HERE, CAPTIVATING AND NEVER BETTER.

BWW Review: OPEN BY CRYSTAL SKILLMAN CAST A MAGICAL SPELL  at TAMPARep

"I AM HERE...YOUR MAGICIAN..."

"PROMISE ME WE WILL ALWAYS BE OPEN WITH WHO WE ARE..."

"CAN SOMEONE LIVE BUT NOT BE ALIVE?"

An empty stage is all the stands before us, at its center a girl on the floor in a daydream, or just merely sleeping. After a few brief moments of staring at her like we've just seen an accident that we cannot turn away from; the lights dim and she awakens. "I am here, your Magician." A few moments later the Magician recognizes us as her audience and brings us into her sweeping tale of love, tragedy, and imagination.

TampaRep is "Coming Back Together" this season with a season of live theatre in True Repertory format. Tonight was the opening of the first two shows of their first full live season since the novel COVID-19 Pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt. First on the docket was a reprisal performance of their outstanding production of Duncan MacMillan's Every Brilliant Thing, and the following performance was Crystal Skillman's Open. Skillman who was in attendance for the first live performance of this piece has written a powerful and imaginative love story with tragedy at its center and a Queer narrative following its central character.

The story itself follows Kristin a budding Young Adult Novelist who spends her time in between writing doing Magic tricks. Magic she learned when she was a little girl from her Grandfather. The interlocking rings, a rope trick, a card trick, etc... She meets a girl named Jenny at a bar during a karaoke night and the two after a couple of dates are in love, despite Jenny's parents' will. Over the course of 60 minutes our Protagonist tells the story in what she calls 3 Acts of a Relationship; Love, Commitment, and Sacrifice.

Director Fanni Green has found the perfect Protagonist in K. Sotakoun. They are captivating and dynamic, a true storyteller. With all the magic being in our imagination they make it impossible to look away. You ultimately feel for their character through every up and down and turn the relationship takes. Their emotional journey really strikes a chord when Jenny, voiced by Sotakoun, says, "When you create, you will always have an audience." I think no truer statement can be said here as this is the encompassing thought to this production. Fanni Green, K. Sotakoun, and crew have created such a magnetic world here that audiences will come out in droves to see this impeccable work.

Through audience interaction and impressive timing, everything is imaginative, but here everything works with exquisite precision. Our Magician interacts with the audience through card tricks and throwing imaginary balls, there is not a moment where we don't feel completely immersed in her story. Matthew Belopavlovich lends his expertise as the Magic Consultant here and each trick is so fine-tuned and so expertly displayed we feel the magic in every hand movement, and hear it in every Abracadabra. The lighting design by Keith Arsenault creates the world in which this story resides. From trapping our Magician into a box to opening our eyes at the end of the show just as the character did each moment here helps tell a captivating tale in place of a non-existent set. Ava Koob's costume design for our Magician is contemporary and lends well to the story. Bravo to all involved in the design aspects of this beautiful piece.

Nick Hoop Assistant Director and Dramaturg for Open says it best in the program,

"In Open we meet Kristin, our Magician. We are promised a magic show, with surprise and cunning. Meanwhile, they regale us in their tale of love found. We see love enveloping warm, genuine, and pure. We hear about what happens when fear stands between loving with all of oneself. Tragedy strikes. And our Magician's challenge, should they choose to accept it, is to find the power within themselves to create the most daring act of all-to create a magic show that will save their love's life."

Live Theatre is back and in full swing in Tampa and the bay area. Our friends at TampaRep have created a seamless and linear line connecting both shows in true rep fashion. Each story is uniquely different but one and the same as well. Two captivating performances make up this incredible night of live theatre. Masks are required while viewing both of these performances, and social distance seating is observed within the Studio Theatre at HCC YBOR Campus. Do not wait for I implore you now more than ever to grab tickets to this one-of-a-kind night of true magic! Visit TampaRep.org for tickets. Open and Every Brilliant Thing are presented in Rep with Every Brilliant Thing at 7:30 pm and Open immediately following. We are so happy to welcome TampaRep back into the live forum and extend a thoughtful Merde! to all involved in this magical performance.

Photo Credit: TampaRep


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