by Beki Pineda
YOUR BEST ONE – Written by Meridith Friedman; Directed by Dee Covington. Presented by Curious Theatre Company (1080 Acoma, Denver) through June 10th. Tickets available at 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org.
Until I walked into the theatre and glanced at the program, I didn’t realize that YOUR BEST ONE is a continuation of THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE, a show that premiered at Curious last season. YOUR BEST ONE shows what happened to the Hoffman family eight years after the end of the previous show. But, for those of you who – like me – didn’t have the opportunity to see THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE, this show stands on its own as an introduction to a normal bickering but loving family.
Brother and sister, Richard (Eric Sandvold) and Laura (Karen Slack), care for their father Oscar (an irascible Randy Moore) – Richard up close and personal with Laura from a long distance in China. Friedman has caught with accuracy the “give a crap” attitude and dialogue of an elder and Randy brings body language and humor to the delightful role. Eric as Richard provides the perfect foil for his father’s irritating behavior, showing both his frustration and his love. Laura is dealing with a painful set of circumstances of her own involving a divorce from her Chinese husband and the custody of her son.
We are also quickly introduced to David (John Jurcheck) and his son Josh (Colin Covert). David and Richard were lovers in the previous incarnation who split at the end of THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE over the adoption of Josh, then a precocious 7-year-old. Richard confesses that, at that time, he wasn’t ready to share David with anyone else, even a child. But now Richard has discovered via Facebook that David has health problems and has devised a way to re-enter their lives. This is an adventure in discovery and devotion spread over three generations.
I haven’t said enough about how well cast this play is. Eric Sandvold has a wide-eyed kind of Bob Newhart-ish air about him that means you immediately want to help him. His relationship with the younger John Jurcheck is entirely believable with its small moments of understanding and tenderness. Karen Slack always brings a vulnerability to her roles that adds to their authenticity (even in VENUS IN FUR when she played a sexual predator). Her “hard” shell cracks in this script when she talks of hanging up on her father in their last phone conversation and in her explanation of the custody battle over her son. Randy Moore does Scrooge with a twinkle in his eye and his manner that lets you know he doesn’t really mean it, but also doesn’t keep you from enjoying his smart-ass dialogue. A new jewel in the Curious crowd is Colin Covert, a sophomore at the Denver School of the Art, who is just the right age and has more than enough talent to play the 14-year-old teenager Josh who is crazy about theatre and takes the lead in a student written school musical called METHANE. Ironically, Colin will, in real life, take the title role in SHREK in the All School Musical in September at DSA next fall. Life duplicating art — or vice versa.
Director Dee Covington created a perfect way to make transitions into new scenes interesting and enjoyable. She allowed one or two of the actors to stay on stage in character during scene changes, just being themselves. David in the kitchen moving around fixing coffee, Josh in the hospital waiting room nervously bouncing a ball, Oscar moving slowly into his chair, and so forth – all while the next scene was being set up in relatively low light. Your eyes went to the more lit area and the quiet easy movements of the actors; then as they would leave through a door, the next scene would start on another part of the stage. This joint creation between Covington and Lighting and Scenic Designer Charles Packard ramped up the enjoyment level.
This warm and loving script is so well written and performed that I’m angry at myself for not making more of an effort to see the first play last year. I wish I could have met Doris, Oscar’s wife who was in the first play but not this one. The family speaks of her with such love and humor, she sounds like a hoot. Intended as a trilogy, I’m guessing/hoping that the third episode will follow David, Richard and Josh into a new life and give us more of the Laura story. You can’t help but fall in love with these people.
A WOW factor of 9!!