Monday, June 2, 2014

QC Theatre Workshop worth checking out

by Janet Schlapkohl

Davenport - QC Theatre Workshop is a young theatre company to watch. Under the artistic direction of Tyson Danner, the company is rapidly establishing itself as a local powerhouse. 

QC’s home is a charming square brick building on the National Registry of Historic Properties. It is a former elementary school and QC performances are in the gymnasium, transformed into a perfect black-box theatre, with audience comfort, intimacy, acoustics, and lighting all superbly accounted for. 

The company uses a unique concept for ticketing. After each performance audience members pay what they feel the experience was worth. The result is a successful theatre company. This is due in equal measure to their committed artistic vision and the obvious talent of their theatrical team.

Last night’s production of True West featured Jeremy Mahr in the role of Austin, and Mike Schulz as Lee. For this production of True West, the roles of Lee and Austin have been determined by a coin toss.

Tyler Reinert’s scenic design was spot-on for color, line and the appliances of an immediately familiar dated ranch house kitchen. Jess Fialko’s lighting offers the welcoming warmth of a kitchen contrasted with chilling tones for scene changes and evening. Bret Churchill found perfect country and western songs for interludes. Sounds of yapping coyotes and crickets suggested the West.

Tyson Danner’s directing was fast paced and vigorous. His actors played very well to an audience seated on three sides. A vintage aluminum dining table with a typewriter is center. Austin is seated at this table typing, when his brother Lee strides in, wobbling just enough in his cowboy boots to make us question his authenticity. This question of authenticity, of sincerity, trust, jealousy, love and hate carry the audience through the performance. Mahr and Schulz listen to each other and respond with both nuanced facial expression and violent physical explosion. The result is a compelling portrayal of sibling rivalry, family pain and loss. The audience laughed and gasped aloud.

Saul Kimmer, played by Brent Tubbs with a gleam in his eye and sweet smile is perfect as a Hollywood producer. Brent does not overplay the sleaze, which makes us find reasons to believe in Lee. Mom, played by Susan Perrin-Sallak appears only in the final moments. Yet her exhausted confusion, irrelevant conversation and denial of reality explains so much about the family.

While this show closed on Sunday, you definitely will want to check out the next production of QC Theatre Workshop.

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