The space for Theatrework's latest production is small, cramped, and cold. The seats are only moderately comfortable and the sight lines a little awkward. But on the plus side, the setting draws the audience into an unique intimacy with the actors. And when the motor's running, the heater does alleviate some of the chill.
Yes, Everyman on the Bus is exactly what it says on the tin: audience members board a charter that takes them through the streets of Colorado Springs and acts as a stage for Murray Ross' interpretation of the fifteenth-century morality play Everyman. Like most morality plays, it is an allegory: at the behest of God (Diane Petersen), Death (Tom Paradise) comes to summon Everyman (played in turns by Jeremy Joynt, Sammie Joe Kinnett, Megan Montgomery, Nick Henderson, and Brian Gramoll) to the final reckoning before his Creator. Caught off-guard with a fully unexamined life, Everyman seeks aid and solace at each stop from friends, family, possessions, and his own strengths. Ultimately finds he must dig deep and learn much about himself and his shortcomings if he is to face Death with dignity.
With its, well, medieval approach to theological questions, Everyman is likely to rub many modern viewers the wrong way, but Ross recognizes the themes of the play transcend its heavy-handed sermonizing. Everyman's quest is not only one of spiritual redemption but of vindication, the assurance that his life has had value and merit. Discussions of consumerism, duplicitous priests, and lost opportunities to do good in the world remain relevant across the boundaries of time and cultural and religious values. If the language is firmly old-school Roman Catholic, the message is universal.
By rotating the part of Everyman through five different actors, Ross emphasizes not only the character's embodiment of the sum of humanity but also the various stages of his journey, from foolishness to contrition to courage and peace. Double-casting also reflects the aspects of Everyman in the other allegorical characters: Kinnett is a wonderfully crass and self-satisfied depiction of worldly Goods; Henderson and Gramoll join Sheyna Kissick to form the boisterous trio of Fellowship. The stops on the tour are likewise allegorical: family members are encountered in a residential area, while Knowledge (a serene Margaret Kasahara) boards from a school campus.
The bus, while the production's biggest innovation, may also be its biggest liability. Actors are limited to pacing up and down the narrow aisle as they declaim their speeches, and there is a lot of down time during "scene changes" as the venue trucks on to its next destination (though these are filled with some excellent and appropriate music selections). The discomfort involved may prove too much for some audience members; one older couple on our trip declined to disembark for the play's final scene in a freezing, snowy cemetery. But Everyman's journey must have its share of pain and suffering, so perhaps its only fitting that his traveling companions share in that. Dress warmly, wear shoes with good treads, and enjoy the trip to our final destination.
The journey of EVERYMAN ON THE BUS departs from the Mining Exchange a Wyndham Grand Hotel (8 S. Nevada Ave.) Wednesdays through Saturdays at 6pm and 8pm and Sundays at 5pm and 7pm now through March 17th. Tickets can be purchased by calling 719-255-3232 or by visiting www.theatreworks.org. Be sure to arrive early-due to the unique nature of the venue, no late seating is available.
PHOTO CREDIT: Isaiah Downing
Nick Henderson and Sammie Joe Kinnett
Steven Shubin, Tom Paradise, and Takiah Coleman