Acts and Answered with Craig Bond
- Acts and Answered with Linda Suttle
- Acts and Answered with Haley Johnson
Vintage Theatre Productions
Colorado has a lot of little theatre. By “little theatre” I am referring to the physical size of the theatre itself. In fact, there really aren’t that many large theatres that are in use right now. Aside from the Denver Center, The Lakewood Cultural Center, Arvada Center, and the Fox – it would be a stretch to find any space in town that seats more than 200 people. Does this mean that smaller theatre companies should never attempt to put up large-scale shows? Does this mean that all of the seats-200-or-less spaces should stick to plays that take place in one location and with one set and with less than 10 actors? Or maybe this just means that in order for a company to successfully present a larger show, they must think outside the box and approach the challenge with creativity and caution. Vintage Theatre is attempting to do that right now with their current run of Auntie Mame, now playing through February 21st.
Auntie Mame is the story of Mame Dennis (most notably portrayed on film by Rosalind Russell.) Mame is the sort of unconventional 1920’s flapper with an appetite for life and a flamboyant, vibrant, and full social calendar. When Mame’s brother dies she is forced to raise her nephew Patrick. Mame takes young Patrick in and the two immediately fall for each other. The rest of the plot takes us through many years as Patrick grows up and Mame takes him on one adventure after another – proving to everyone that the important thing about life is to live it.
Directed by Vintage Co-Artistic Director, Craig Bond, Auntie Mame may be the biggest challenge this company has faced yet. With a cast of 20 and 28 different locations that span 30 years, it is clear that this was not a project that was easily agreed upon. Even more of a struggle when you consider the actual size of the Vintage stage. The solution to this challenge was to literally move 3 rows of seats and create a ¾ round seating arrangement. The set, though minimal, was changed each time to reflect the new location and entrances and exits used every inch of the intimate Vintage performance space. Concept-wise this works. In practice though, it is a different story.
Directing anything in the round, or ¾ round, is a challenge to any director. Ensuring that the audience can see everything becomes the director’s number one challenge, and unfortunately this was a glaring oversight. The lack of clear sight-lines caused portions of the audience to miss giant sections of plot, making it a difficult task to follow an intricate story such as Auntie Mame. With all of the set changes, actors doubling parts, and staging difficulties, the challenge became how to best wrangle all of the stuff happening on stage instead of what the challenge should have been – working with very talented actors to portray real and honest characters. Instead, set changes took too long, crowd scenes became clustered and difficult to follow, and actors weren’t given the support they needed to be as successful in their roles as they could have been.
Overall, the production of Auntie Mame is sweet. Linda Suttle as Mame is lovable and warm, and does the best she can with the challenges she was given. Max Schwartz as young Patrick is adorable and vibrant while the relationship between Suttle and Schwartz is mostly believable and touching. In fact, the entire cast really does an admirable job of navigating the tricky terrain that each scene presented them. Though as an ensemble, that is sadly where the actors were unable to come together. Moments of comedy and heart peppered the crowded landscape that was this play. And each actor, having created a believable and honest role, failed to relate to the others onstage.
Some shows are simply too large for some spaces. The beauty of theatre is that it comes in all shapes and sizes, but a producer must be realistic about the limitations that are inherent to any space. And Auntie Mame is simply too much for the Vintage space.
Vintage Theatre presents
Mame Dennis has had one adventure after another and wants nephew Patrick to live life to the fullest.
Jan 15 – Feb 21
Fri/Sat at 7:30 p.m. Sun at 2:30 p.m.
* February 13 & 14 Tickets are $30.00 – champagne & chocolate included with admission.
2119 E 17th Ave in Denver.
Tickets are $23 at the door, $18 in advance
303-839-1361 or online