THE ROUGH – Written by Jessica Jackson and the Ensemble; Directed by Jessica Jackson. Produced by The Catamounts (presented at the Legacy Ridge Golf Course, 10801 Legacy Ridge Parkway, Westminster) through September 6. Tickets available at CityofWestminster.ticketspice.com/TheRough.
There appears to be three possible paths for theatres to take to survive through 2020: (1) they reduce expenses as much as possible and hunker down; (2) They reach out to their audiences and the public at large through streaming readings, small performances, or musical events; or (3) They use their creativity to come up with new ways to safely do live theatre. Or a combination of all three, in some cases. The Catamounts took an invitation from the City of Westminster seriously and devised a show they could do on the cart paths of a beautiful golf course keeping the actors a safe distance from the audience, using actors from the same households, requiring the audience to wear masks and not leave the golf carts they were riding, and using individualized sound systems. A daunting undertaking which, on opening night, worked perfectly.
THE ROUGH is a series of short scenes that explores the origins and mythology connected with that great Scottish game of “sticks and balls” which eventually became golf. Brian Kusic as the Scotsman introduces us to the game and to the illusive goddess of Paganica whom he chases around the course all evening. The character of Paganica (Kebrina Josefina de Jesus) is a metaphor for the frustration of chasing an illusive little ball around a course; the early golf balls were feather or woolen stuffed balls covered with leather or hide and were called paganicas. His “authentic” Scots accent is a wonder to behold (or behear, as it were) and his comic remarks set the tone for the whole evening. You know immediately you are going to have a good time.
One stop revisits the Hairy Man legend and how he seduces his captors into releasing him. A sweet scene with Sam Gilstrap as a Big Brother to a group of young golf students utilizes the voices of a group of the cast’s children and young friends. Their off-the-cuff remarks and responses to Sam’s lessons are so realistic that you almost forget that they aren’t really present. If I ever had any desire to learn to play golf, I’d want Sam as my mentor. Maggie Tisdale leads the audience in singing a folk song about how she “won the game but lost her love” and in a later scene, explores the scientific meaning of “wild.” Sean Michael Cummings and Tresha Farris play friends in the making at a wedding reception.
Each scene is thoughtfully organized and arranged so that each participant sitting in their golf cart can hear and see what’s being played out. They use the tunnels under the trails as echo chambers for the singing which adds a delightful timbre to the song. Small lights are added to the scenes as they become necessary when the sun starts to set. But the whole evening is arranged to allow the participants to partake of the dusk and sunset of a beautiful Colorado evening. Jessica wrote in (or maybe the actors added) just enough references to walls (that are meant to keep people out), Me Too issues, and references to people who hear what they want to hear when music is performed to gently stick their toes into the water hazard without having to dive in after the balls. Sam tells his young charges that the statement that “anyone can play golf “ is the absolute truth and total bullshit both which speaks to the availability, the difficulty to achieve competency, and the financial burden of a hobby like this.
My congratulations to Catamount for pulling off an imaginative, complicated and worthwhile true theatre experience. Early shows have sold out but they are adding shows as they can. If you can get one of these prized tickets, it will be worth your while.
A WOW factor of 9!!