Review: Sweetly compelling performances give life to Boise Contemporary Theater's ‘Warren’

doland@idahostatesman.comFebruary 3, 2014 

  • GO SEE IT

    WHAT

    “Warren (or) Those People”

    WHEN

    8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays through Feb. 22 and 2 p.m. Saturday Feb. 8, 15 and 22

    WHERE

    Boise Contemporary Theater, 854 Fulton St.

    TICKETS

    $30 Fridays-Saturdays, $25 Wednesdays-Thursdays. Matinee and student tickets are $15 at 331-9224 and BCTheater.org.

It sounds weird, but this wacky comedy is about euthanasia and autism — two polarizing issues our culture faces today.

Playwright Brian Quirk goes beyond that as he takes on racism and the economic downturn to boot — all in two short acts in “Warren (or) Those People,” which had its world premier at Boise Contemporary Theater on Saturday.

That’s a lot to get in. Maybe that’s why there are two titles. If Quirk were to choose one, things might get more focused. He doesn’t connect all the dots — although you get the point, perhaps a little too easily.

Yet, despite its flaws, what make this production work are the fine performances of Dwayne Blackaller and Peggy Cosgrave, in her BCT debut.

The setting is divided between Belle Isle Aquarium outside of Detroit where Dano (Blackaller) once worked and Warren, Mich., where Rose Macbeth Ericson (Cosgrave), an elder women of Scottish descent, lives. She must get help around the house or her kids will put her in a “home.”

So, she hires Dano, a man with high-functioning autism. He likes rap and has an innocent, open-minded view of the world.

That world looks different to Rose, who feels victimized by her aging body.

This odd couple throw in together out of desperation.

Quirk weaves flashbacks of Dano giving a talk about how to survive a shark attack — a metaphor for the cancer that killed his mom and, perhaps, will take Rose.

There are genuine laughs here — as well as tears.

Blackaller reveals the humanity in his character and is hysterical at times — especially when he raps the entire plot of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

Cosgrave gives a warm and graceful performance as Rose as she struggles with lung cancer and the effects of chemotherapy.

Their relationship grows in the first act but stalls in the second as the inevitable — though emotional — finale is loudly telegraphed.

Matthew Cameron Clark’s direction keeps everything on track.

Hannah K.E. Read Newbill dishes up fun costuming for Cosgrave, including pink ostrich feather mules.

Michael Hartwell’s stunning set fills the entire length of the theater with an aquarium’s facade.

Bernadine Cockey’s props and decorations add to the charm of the place. Peter John Still’s sound and new-to-BCT lighting designer Dante Olivia Smith add the final polish.

Producing artistic director Clark incorporated developing new plays into his theater’s mission seven years ago. “Warren” is the first of two world premieres at BCT this season. (“Uncanny Valley,” written by Clark and Blackaller, will premiere in April.)

Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland

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