by Beki Pineda
QUEEN OF CONSPIRACY – Written by Josh Hartwell; Directed by Len Matheo. Produced by Miners Alley Playhouse (1224 Washington, Golden) through June 23. Tickets available at 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com.
There are prolific background notes in the program for this production, but a couple of statements stood out for me. Director Len Matheo writes, “When surveyed, most people do not believe in most conspiracy theories, but they do believe that the truth is usually more than meets the eye.” In the notes regarding Mae Brussel, the Queen herself, the statement is made that “the urge to create order in an uncertain world is very human.” This illustrates to me that most people have a healthy skepticism about grand international cabals controlling political and economic outcomes. At the same time, when their own lives spin out of control, it’s comforting to believe that some nefarious force is at work behind the scenes, rather than placing the blame on the proper shoulders.
Born in 1922, Mae was intrigued by the inconsistencies of the Warren Report following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and launched a personal investigation into her perceived interconnection between various world events. To her and eventually her followers, the events surrounding the Oswald and Ruby shootings were connected to other events as far back as the late 40’s involving the disappearances of leading Nazi figures after WWII. She later connected Watergate, Oliver North, celebrity overdoses, and other world events. It would be amazing to see what she would make of the current political scene and the theories that swirl around 9/11. Most mundanely, she passed away from cancer in 1988 . . . or did she???
The title – QUEEN OF CONSPIRACY – indicates that this was going to be a show primarily about Mae (played by Abby Apple Boes) herself, what led her into her theories, her successes, and the consequences of her studies. Instead we got a few isolate incidents from her celebrity life and a sampling of her broadcasts. The bulk of the story telling was reserved for a newly minted theorist twice removed from Mae herself. One of Mae’s disciples, Olivia (Heather Lacy) had a daughter Rachel (Chloe MacLeod) who enters the story scoffing at her mother’s radical beliefs. All it takes to convert Rachel to rabid curiosity is the mysterious (or accidental – never made clear) circumstances of her mother’s death. Carson, Rachel’s husband (Singin Jones) works at DIA and we all know what an alien hotbed that is.
The story just seemed too much spread too thin. This is not to say that this is not an interesting theatre evening that will entertain and flame your own curiosity. The cast also included William Hahn (so nice to see him back on stage after a substantial absence) as Henry Miller and Damon Guerrasio as Frank Zappa and Vic, an airport worker who knows all the secret places. All cast members did an excellent job with the parts given them. Abby is steely and no nonsence as Mae and even made the most of a silly deduction scene played over a ping pong table sans ball. Just try hitting an invisible ping pong ball with accuracy while reciting lines and flirting with Henry Miller.
The tech crew did its usual fine job of creating a two layered setting for the storytelling which included Mae’s cluttered office/studio space as well as Rachel and Carson’s living room and corridors under DIA. he set was designed, built and dressed by the excellent team of Jonathan and Elizabeth Scott-McKean. Vance McKenzie’s lighting design made the DIA “alien” encounter especially scary.
This is a play that will encourage you to examine your own beliefs and revisit the most public conspiracies – pick your favorite.
A WOW factor of 8!