On March 14, as I sat at Des Moines Playhouse watching their production of “Singin ‘in the Rain”, I had no idea what was to come. Iowa had just had its first case of Covid19 a few weeks ago. That evening an email went out stating that production was being postponed. What followed was a nightmare, fifteen months without seeing a live performance in a theater. The Playhouse was able to find a way to make the live performances work last year, but I needed to be comfortable going to the theater.
As theaters prepare to reopen, I have found it appropriate that the first theater I return to is the last theater I was. What made this evening even more special was that the Playhouse partnered up with the Pyramid Theater Company. It was exciting because I had just seen my first two Pyramid shows the summer before the pandemic and couldn’t wait to see them last summer. With this partnership, they presented “A Love Offering” by Jonathan Norton.
“A Love Offering” tells the story of T’wana Jepson, a caregiver, who is on the rotating list of caregivers who help Mr. Turner as his Alzheimer’s disease worsens. Before the play begins, two important events occur, the first being that T’wana is gradually Mr. Turner, and the other being the spindle of Mr. Turnerthe wife of is missing. At the start of the play, Mr. TurnerStewart’s son gives T’wana $ 500 to help cover the medical costs of the bite, but we soon find out the real intentions of giving him the money. Her sister Josie tells her that they have tapes of everything in the room, including an incriminating video that looks like Miss Georgia, T’wana’s labor mom, stealing the brooch. To find out what’s going on, you’ll either need to head to the Playhouse to see this fantastic production or get a ticket to their final video-on-demand screening on June 17th.
Before going too far in the criticism, I think it is important to return to the theater. How did the experience go? First of all, after more than a year of absence, I felt like I was at home. Whether it’s a small community theater or on Broadway, theater has always been my home. Second, The Playhouse has done a tremendous job taking action to mitigate the spread of Covid 19. The first thing you receive on the day of the show is an email reminding you if you are sick and then to stay home, and they would. refund your order. They also limited the time that the public could come to the theater to 30 minutes before the show time. These two steps comforted me, knowing that steps were taken before people entered the theater.
When I entered the theater there was a table with masks for all audience members who didn’t have them and hand sanitizer stations throughout the building. To minimize contact with people, they don’t use tickets. When you get to the auditorium, they have a list of the seats that members of the audience are allocated to. The seats are distributed so that there is at least 6 feet of space between the parties. They also demanded that everyone wear a mask in the theater. I felt that every precaution had been taken to ensure the safety of their audience during performances.
As you enter the theater, one of the first things you notice is the scenery on stage. Often at the Playhouse, the decor is noticed, even in shows with minimal decor, for its complexity. The first thing I noticed was the soft colors and simplicity of Erin I. Wegleitner’s ensemble. By remaining simplistic, he allows the story that takes place on stage to be the center of the evening.
The set paired well with Angela Lampe’s costume design and John G Pomeroy’s lighting design. I enjoyed how well lit the stage was and did a great job highlighting only one area where the action was taking place.
What interested me the most about the series was that it was co-directed by Katy merriman and Tiffany Johnson, artistic directors of Des Moines Playhouse and Pyramid Theater Company, respectively. I really enjoyed the fact that even though the two directors have distinct voices, they brought their voices together to tell a story. Some of my favorite moments in the room were when there was complete silence on stage. Thanks to the leadership of these two, the story never ended. An example of this was whenever we went back to Mr. Turnerthe room of.
Lights never go all black so we see shadows that help Mr. Turner get in and out of bed. I thought it was a really good addition to the play that let the audience know from the start how fragile the character was.
Just as all of the pieces fit together visually and emotionally on stage, the show wouldn’t be complete without a solid cast who can tackle the material. The cast is led by Heaven Booker as T’wana, who does a great job showing us the struggle of Mr. Turner receives excellent care, despite the things he can say to her, as well as the struggle over what to do when a person who is his mother at work is accused of theft. Plus, Courageous Fire as Miss Georgia gives a performance I won’t soon forget. There are several times throughout the series where she reveals something about another character. It was like she held these secrets until the other characters on the show pushed her to the point that the only thing that could happen is they come out. And every time one of them comes out, it really shakes up some of the other actor’s characters. The show also features fantastic performances from Jacki Smullen as Josie, Sean Kanuso as Stewart and Mark Pullen as Bedridden. Mr. Turner.
If you’ve been waiting for the right time to return to the theater, I can’t think of a better opportunity than “An Offering of Love”. This co-production between Pyramid Theater Company and Des Moines Playhouse kept me on the edge of my seat as the show progressed. The technical elements, the staging and the acting, every component of the show come together to give the audience a fantastic performance and leave them something to think about once the show is over. The show continues at Des Moines Playhouse until June 20, with the option to see the show virtually on Thursday June 17 and a post-performance chat with cast and writer on Friday June 18.
To learn more about “An Offer of Love” or to purchase tickets, visit An Offering of Love – Des Moines Playhouse (dmplayhouse.com)
To learn more about the Des Moines Playhouse, visit Home – Des Moines Playhouse (dmplayhouse.com)
To learn more about Pyramid Theater Company, visit Pyramid Theater Company
The review was written by DC Felton
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