I consider all of the shows that I write about here to be noteworthy, and I suggest them as a fun or moving (or both) evening's entertainment. On rare occasions, I come across a show that I consider to be a "must-see." Those of you who were recipients of the e-mail list that preceded this blog saw me rave about The Robber Bridegroom in much the same way you will see me go on about Hunger Artists' Letters to Home. I've mentioned this show twice on the blog already sight-unseen, and I recommended seeing it simply because it seemed to me to be an interesting concept: dramatic readings of letters both to and from American soldiers throughout history.
Well, brace yourselves, piggies, because I'm going to be publicly patting myself on the back for awhile to come for anticipating the quality and depth of this project.
I saw it tonight, and it was truly amazing. The talented young ensemble breathed life into every word of every letter. At times funny, provocative, and even heart-breaking, Letters to Home is the best "reality show" you can see for the price. (Maybe for any price.) You see, other than a segue or two penned by adapters Maggie Cochran (who also directed) and Deni-Marie Warren (who also acted), the words you hear were not written by some Pulitzer-winning playwright. These are letters from actual people to actual people. There is no fiction here. These are not "based on" a true story, they are truth, and most of them are Colorado stories.
This is no way a sleight against the architects of this project at all. The hours that must have been spent locating and researching these letters demonstrates a meticulous and deliberate eye for storytelling.
There is no political agenda in this piece. It is neither pro-war nor anti-war. It simply celebrates the American soldier in his or her many forms. Whether its the tale of a civil-war nurse or of two brothers stationed aboard the same battleship just before World War II, these letters capture the bravery, fears, hopes, and spirit of the young men and women who have for centuries put themselves in harm's way in service of the ideal of freedom.
Maggie Cochran's blocking is fresh, unexpected, and frequently inspired.
Now, as I've mentioned previously, there were two young actors from whom I already expected terrific performances: Jose Zuniga, who had been terrific in both The Robber Bridegroom and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and Colin Ahern, who had delivered an absolutely virtuoso performance as Bri in Joe Egg. My expectations were high of these two performers, and my expectations were met and surpassed. The rest of the ensemble delivered equally brilliant performances, so much so that they deserve to be acknowledged by name: Jeff Simpson, Deni-Marie Warren, Amy Ratliff, Peter Trinh, and Sara Whitney. Remember these names, folks. You'll see them again.
I tend to watch shows as a director, with an eye to the mechanics and structure of a show, and, while I'm not incapable of being drawn into a great performance, it does not happen with great frequency. This is not to diminish the quality or enjoyment of most of the shows I see, I simply have a tendency to keep some observational distance. Not so, though, with Letters to Home. I was moved to tears on more than one occasion, and I jumped to my feet at the curtain call, something I have never done at a "reading."
Folks, whether you are a staunch supporter or of the government or a conscientious objector (both of which are, in my opinion, forms of patriotism) you must see this show.
If you are a history buff or haven't looked at a history book since high school, you must see this show.
You must see this show. It is not simply an important piece of historical theatre, it's also damn good.
Remaining performances are:
Sunday, July 1st at 4 pm
Monday, July 2nd at 7:30 pm (Industry Night)
Tuesday, July 3rd at 7:30 pm
Wednesday, July 4th at 6:00 pm (so you can still go see the fireworks. Something tells me they'll take on a whole new meaning for you after this show.)
Friday, July 6th at 7:30 pm
Saturday, July 7th at 7:30 pm
It's well worth the full-price ticket, but there's also a special "web-only" 2-for-1 discount, which you have to go to the Hunger Artists website to find.
You have got to see this show, and make sure that you bring someone with you. They will thank you for it.