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Monday, July 22, 2013

The As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company Closes Its 16th Season with a Heartfelt and Delightful Dramedy


Elaine Hackett and Brad Lambert in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.
Photo – The As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company.

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks
By Richard Alfieri                                                                                                      
Directed by Sandy Richens Cohrs
Reviewed by Brian Walker
Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Brian Walker. All rights reserved

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is a play about a woman in her seventies who hires a younger man to come into her home and teach her dance lessons for six weeks, a different dance each week. The two begin to open up to each other and form a friendship. The script imbues music and dance through seven scenes, is witty and brash, and doesn’t allow itself to rest in over-sentimentality. I found the production just lovely.
The central relationship of instructor and student is layered with discoveries and surprises; and as the lessons progress, Michael and Lily find they have more in common than they ever imagined. Some of the discoveries are heartbreaking and some are comical, but all of them are real and honest. They both fight and bicker as their default communication modes until each side breaks down and tosses their masks aside in search of an honest connection with another human being, which, really, isn’t that what we all want?  I found the themes of friendship, loneliness and impending death completely accessible and moving and successfully free of cliché. 
Brad Lambert is the dance instructor Michael, who is sassy and quick-witted; Mr. Lambert does a nice job in the role. His comedic timing is right on point and he invests the role with heart and a silent yearning for companionship that was subtle but palpable. He had some line flubs opening night but managed to get himself on track quickly without sacrificing the scene.
Elaine Hackett is just wonderful in the role of Lily, the preacher’s wife in search of connection. She is hilarious and heartbreaking, enraging and empathetic. You root for her in one moment and hate her in the next. Ms. Hackett maneuvers the shifts expertly, and I had so much fun watching her. She is a complete delight!
Each scene is closed with a performance of the dance they’ve just been working on and both actors danced them as if they’ve been doing them all their lives, effortlessly and with poise and a sense of humor; I enjoyed each one immensely. If there was one wish I had all night, it was that the scene changes didn’t take so long – though the way the script is constructed, I’m not sure how that would happen. But they felt longer than they should have. It wasn’t that things were necessarily getting moved on and off, but the actors had to completely change costumes between each one. So unfortunately, this may just be a pitfall of the script.
For such a small production, the set and lighting were very impressive and served to highlight to me what’s possible on a small budget. Lily’s condo (by Gary Tipton) was the perfect palate of teals and pinks and immediately transported me to Florida; it was wonderfully indicative of who Lily was before we even met her.  It came complete with a huge bay window and a view of the ocean that once manipulated by the brilliant lighting design (by Noelle Shotwell) changed color to follow the sun over the course of a day. What they were able to accomplish, especially in the show’s final sunset, was beautiful.
Sandy Richens Cohrs is to be commended, as she’s listed not only as director but also producer, choreographer and sound technician. What can’t this woman do?  The stage was used effectively, and the choreography was playful and fun. I just really enjoyed the production from beginning to end. It was touching, and I laughed out loud several times and even wiped away a tear or two. It was a lovely evening of theatre; and as the opening house leapt to their feet in standing ovation at the end, I was honestly compelled to do the same.
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks
July 19-28

The As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company
At Kentucky Center for the Arts
Boyd Martin Experimental Theater
501 W. Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Tickets:  $16
502.584.7777
www.kentuckycenter.org


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