A most beautiful offering occurred in the little Workshop Theater Mainstage, directed with expertise by Ari Laura Kreith. It was a dream of a production by the name of Dreamhouse, and it showcased five female singer/actors possessed of superb talents. The production is a song cycle, not unlike Adam Guettel’s Myths and Hymns or Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World. The authors, David Wolfson (music) and Barbara DeCesare (words), have put together a program of female-centric material that is thoughtful, charming, and often quite funny. Kreith took the 30 songs (including a few spoken poems) and blended them into an easygoing flow, filled with variety and creativity.
Variety is the key to a full two-act evening of songs, connected only in related themes, and Wolfson’s music is full of surprising turns. It is at once melodic: now a calypso, now country-western twang, now honky-tonk. It is, above all, theatre music, expressing journeys of character and expressions of life. It is both sad and joyful, perplexing and liberating, sly and clever. All members of the ensemble took several turns in the spotlight, but they blended together in harmony several times as well, sounding rich and wonderful.
Kreith did a tremendous job at staging the event with enough variety to equal the program of songs. There were clever little tricks such as a sheet of clear plastic to represent a character’s feeling of being under water. This simple device caught the light in beautiful ways—now red, now blue. The ensemble relaxed in attractive pictures while allowing the soloist to take focus, then rearranging to suit the mood of the next song. Jeri Sykes’s lighting enhanced the mood of each number, while adding smoothness to the many transitions, professionally calculated to lead the audience’s interest and move them forward.
The audience wasn’t given the chance to applaud much, as each song faded into the next the majority of the time. It was almost strange when the audience were allowed to applaud, after wanting to desperately, for the voices of the ensemble (Jennie Eisenhower, Amy Hutchins, Maree Johnson, Gayla D. Morgan, and Suzan Postel) were each terrific, and the delivery of the material was unanimously strong. Sometimes the stars are in line, and in a little black-box theatre on the fringe of the Great White Way a truly amazing piece of theatre finds the spark of true imagination, blended with professional craftsmanship. There was terrific artistry in this Dreamhouse, a rare and wonderful thing.
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Copyright 2005 Michael D. Jackson