CELEBRATION, FLORIDA – Written by Greg Wohead; Directed by Emily K. Harrison. Produced by square product theatre (Presented at the Dairy Center, 2580 Walnut) through February 9. Tickets available at 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org.
Two actors who have never met in real life take the stage and put on headphones as projections on a screen behind them outline their roles in the evening’s entertainment. They are listening to instructions on the headphones from the playwright about what to do or say. An interesting vintage video is shown behind them about the Walt Disney designed community that is Celebration, Florida, right outside Disney World. Built to the exacting specifications of all Disney “productions,” it is a full community with a town square, its own police force and shops, and its own protocol – all designed to inspire nostalgia for your personal home town. Like most of “the happiest places on Earth,” the façade of Celebration is built on dreams, imagination, and hope.
But finding the tenuous link between what was happening on stage and the desire for a perfect community in which to live was hard to find. Until you consider Walt Disney with his messianic desire for control to Mr. Wohead’s dictatorial command of each performance of this piece, even though he has moved on to new projects and new locations. Disney’s fanatic search for perfection dictated every part of each of his projects. Mr. Wohead seems not content to write a script and turn it over to actors to interpret. He inserts himself into each production through the tapes that are the “script” for the unsuspecting actors.
Each new pair of actors that tackle this project are put through their paces with no time to question what they are doing and why. The embarrassment of trying to perform puppet-like without the comfort of a printed script, rehearsals, a familiar face on the other side of the stage is made even more difficult by the things that they are asked to do, such as run in slow motion, scream at each other, just standing and listening to the headphone’s inner instructions as the audience waits in silence. Luckily for Mr. Wohead, most actors are game for a game and bring their generosity to the stage.
The most significant thing that seemed to come out of the evening was watching two strangers meet and bond over their mutual unique experience on stage. This was a bold move by square product and hopefully, in theory, will be rewarded by new interest in a company that would take on an unspecified project such as this. The biggest challenge of the production had to be finding the required number of new pairs of Front Range actors who didn’t know each other before meeting on stage. For those of you who prefer a challenging, even avant garde (do people even use that phrase any more?) theatre evening, this one is for you. They have been performing at the Buntport Theatre in Denver, but finish their run with a weekend of performances at the Dairy Center.
A WOW factor of 7.5!