BWW Reviews: Denver's Dangerous Theater Presents Fascinating COMFORT IN THE ARMS OF THE DAMNED
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by Michael Mulhern
Denver's Dangerous Theatre presents the World Premiere of COMFORT IN THE ARMS OF THE DAMNED playing now through November 17th. Jonathan Vick's psychological thriller about dealing with the demons in our lives. Tobais made friends with the monster in his closet as a child. As an adult, Xavier still controls him through fantasy and dreams. All Tobias wants is to love and be loved. Isn't that all anyone really wants? But who is really keeping Tobias from realizing the dreams in his heart? Xavier, or himself.
This was a twisted and seductive show that had some fascinating content. The opening monologue really drew you in and made you want more of Tobias's tortured purgatory. Xavier was absolutely menacing and simply vicious towards Tobias which engaged the audience and the female Greek chorus was just fun to watch. I loved the excessive use of blood that was perfect for this time of year. While I thoroughly enjoyed these wonderful performances, there were a couple of things I would have tweaked in this show. First off, when Tobias cuts himself for the first time, Maryssa really needs to scream (the scene just begged for it). The Greek chorus and Xavier truly needed for a fabulous makeup artist to contort their faces and really give them a shock value. Also, instead of having the lengthy break, have the Greek chorus transform Tobias onstage as more of a transitional dance through those many scenes. Act One was quite focused and seamless in transitions of scenes, Act Two was a bit more muddled and choppy. I commend director Winnie Wenglewick for a fabulous job with a stellar cast and so many vignettes, although I feel that if this was Tobias's own personal hell or purgatory, then keep him onstage throughout the entire show. This would also enhance that dreamlike state that was the focus of the show and Tobias's ongoing battleground.
Since this is a world premiere, I also have a couple comments for the playwright, Jonathan Vick. Quite honestly, this show should be shaved down by a half-hour. When you have so many scenes that follow the same repetition cycle, it became dizzying at times and those could have been cut or combined together (especially in Act Two). My other comment goes to the controversy that Xavier could be played by a male or a female. My vote it that Xavier should always be a male. Ultimately, this small change in gender would change this show from interesting to fascinating. While Xavier as a female was interesting (and I must say that Brittany was fierce in the role and I can see why Winnie went this route), the shows focus became about Tobias leaving behind his inability to love to his dreams and finally opening his arms and his heart to Maryssa. Xavier as a male opened an entirely new and fascinating crux to the show and that is an unforeseen gay aspect. With a male Xavier, Tobias suddenly becomes bisexual and is tortured with his emotions and desires of being attracted to both sexes. I feel that a lot of bisexuals deal with these emotions and demons all the time and when I truly thought about this in a new light, I was a moth drawn to a flame. Just for fun I would also change Lisle (whose name is used for males and females in Germany) in the Greek chorus to a male to play with and torture Tobais along with his Mother and his girlfriend Savannah. This provides a true tug of war on his sexuality that would draw the audience in ever further. Even with these thoughts, I must applaud Mr. Vick on some compelling content that kept me up at night! Job well done!
Brian McDonell as Tobias was quite good and really carried the show. He was spot on with his tortured and charismatic performance. I also have to give him mad props for the enormous amount of lines that he had to learn for this two and a half hour show which he handled with great ease. Brittany Lacour was delicious as Xavier. She receives high praise for her concentration during the entire show; and for being completely interactive and engaged throughout even when she wasn't speaking. That with a combination of fierce intensity helped to build that superb suspense. Stacia Gordon was excellent and her performance as Tobias's girlfriend, Maryssa as she gave a more subtle performance but still managed to have great stage presence while fighting a horrendous flu. The Greek chorus comprised of Teresa Champion as Tessa, Corinne Denny as Savannah, and Allison Murphy as Lisle each brought out their characters while still remaining in the background and were menacing and tender (didn't think that could be possible, but they pulled it off fabulously).
This really was a fascinating play and the members of Denver's Dangerous Theatre were excellent in their performance!
COMFORT IN THE ARMS OF THE DAMNED is fascinating audiences now until November 17th. For tickets of more information, contact the box office at. Denver’s Dangerous Theatre is located at 2620 West 2nd Ave. #1 in Denver, CO. For tickets or more information, contact the box office at 720-233-4703 or online at www.DangerousTheatre.com. NOTE: Adults only due to language and violence.