Arts & Culture

Boise Contemporary Theater, LED offer compelling performances: ‘Wolves’ runs to Nov. 9

Last weekend two of Boise’s arts groups offered fantastic performances: Boise Contemporary Theater’s season-opening play “The Wolves” and LED’s “Ghost Notes.”

These two shows span the diversity — and quality — of what Boise’s arts scene has to offer.

BCT: Intense teen spirit

Boise Contemporary Theater opened its 24th season with Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves,” a teenage emotion-filled thrill ride.

It is the first production to hit the boards under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Benjamin Burdick, who took the reigns over the summer. Programmed by former founding Artistic Director Matthew Cameron Clark, the play sits perfectly on the heels of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s World Cup victory. But besides that it’s a deep dive into the lives and psyches of these girls.

With her play, DeLappe opens a window into the world of teenage angst and elation, challenges and determination, resiliency and surrender — through the microcosm of a girls indoor soccer team. These are the “good girls,” the A students, focused on the future while they seek to find their way and their identities.

Director Kittson O’Neil wrangles this pack of spirited actors into a beautifully synced ensemble through clear, focused storytelling. Dialogue overlaps, outbursts soar over peals of laughter at social missteps, and the characters literally are running around the stage. Through it all, O’Neil keeps the pacing brisk and direct. Nothing is thrown away; nothing is lost.

This company of 10 excellent actors — some local, others imported — keeps the narrative on track. Celine McMonigal, Amela Kardaza, Lindsay Mushett, Claris Park, Lex Gonzalez, Arianna Keever, Connie Castanzo, Marley Snow King and Emily Verla work as a tight ensemble as the team that exhibits undeniable and infectious camaraderie. Erin Davidson plays the one adult character in the piece, who comes in at the end of the play with an emotional scene that packs a wallop.

Each of these characters exhibits a mix of strength and insecurity. Their performances are raw, honest and very in the moment. These characters are resilient young women who take extremely difficult moments, personal setbacks and tragedy in stride, packing them away for their future selves to deal.

The play is filled with compelling performances by all, but particularly Verla’s #46, the quirky outsider who strives to prove herself and belong. Even in this bastion of girl power, her success comes at the expense of another. Snow King’s #7 is the de facto team leader who is all confidence when it comes to soccer but more vulnerable when it is personal. And McMonigal is #00, the emotionally repressed goalie.

Not only do these actors navigate their roles beautifully, but they do so while performing strenuous soccer drills — choreographed by Mushett, who played Division I soccer at Columbia University. And they never miss a beat.

For most of the play it’s a comedy, the kind that inspires nervous laughter that gives way to genuine belly laughs. It’s all punctuated by moments of extreme emotional pitch, shock at huge social gaffes and even tearful recriminations. DeLappe’s structure for the 90-minute play is fluid and allows the actors choices as they create their backstories.

Melpomene Katakalos’ set — a large expanse of artificial turf that runs across the floor and up the back of the wall — creates the world as soccer field. Raquel Davis’ beautiful lighting gives it shape and definition. Peter Still’s sound design brings it to life, and Hannah Read Newbill’s costuming dresses up the look of the play.

It’s a wonderfully engaging night of theater.

Dates and Tickets: Oct. 24-Nov. 9. Shows are 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, at Boise Contemporary Theater, 854 Fulton St., Boise. Individual tickets: $22 for previews, $18 students, $22-$38 general admission at BCTheater.org. Season tickets still are available: Preview: $117, Student: $95, General: $138-$191 general.

LED Ghost Notes.jpeg
LED dancers Brett Perry, foreground, and Ching Ching Wong perform in LED’s “Ghost Notes” on Oct. 18. The company sold out five performances over the weekend. Thistle & Pine Creative

LED ‘Ghost Notes’: Superlative dance, inventive choreography

LED is doing what this collaboration-driven company does best: It brought together a talented group of dancers, musicians and theater artists, and created an intimate experience for its audience through performance.

LED is the vision of choreographer/dancer Lauren Edson and her husband, composer, musician and singer Andrew Stensaas. For “Ghost Notes,” Edson stepped away from her performance mode to deftly craft a collection of spooky dances — some based on local tales, others imagined — with a group of deeply talented dancers.

The six sold-out performances last weekend held 50 audience members each. Being that close to these extraordinary physical artists is inspiring and emotionally satisfying. (Another chance for the experience happens when Ballet Idaho presents its NewDance program in November at the intimate Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy Theater.)

It’s even more impressive that this group whipped this ditty together in just two weeks.

The score was a mix of original music composed by Stensaas and Angel Abaya, recorded pieces, sounds and some Chopin. Both excellent singers, they performed for the 50-minute performance, adding another layer. One of the most impressive moments was when Abaya performed a Chopin etude.

None of the stories was obvious. Each was beautifully subtle and nuanced in this collaborative effort. Each is connected by a “ghost light” — a solo light left to illuminate a dark stage and to keep the ghosts away. Lighting designer Chaz Gentry created a movable version that transform into different elements of some stories.

Edson created beautiful and eerie tableaus through intricate, interconnected movement that flowed from vignette to vignette. In a post-show speech, Edson and Stensaas said the piece came together in just 14 days.

The work showcased each dancer’s strengths — the fluidity of Brett Perry, the dynamic sweep and gorgeous lines of Maddie Scott and Isaac Bates-Vinueza, the intensity and strength of international dancer Ching Ching Wong, and the intriguing style of Quincie Bean.

Some standout moments included the tableau that opened the evening and set the tone; Bates-Vinueza’s beautifully lyrical solo that fed into a duet with Scott, whose lines are breathtaking; anytime the compelling Perry is on stage; Wong’s emotional presence — a bundle of dynamite packed into a small package; and Bean’s tip-toe solo that was equally lovely and creepy.

My favorite piece was a trio with Perry, Wong and Bean in which they used their breath to move each other’s body parts. It was mesmerizing and left me wanting more.

The creative team for LED is taking a break until 2020. Look for more performances in the coming year — and a big announcement about the company’s future, Edson says. You can also check out several visual art projects, music and other events at the LED space, and more creative endeavors at LEDBoise.com, on Facebook and on Instagram.

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Dana Oland is an experienced reporter covering a wide variety of topics in the Treasure Valley. A former member of Actors’ Equity, she covers arts, culture, food, wine, development and growth. She oversees the Statesman’s reader-driven Curious Idaho initiative and the production of Treasure magazine. If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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