In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|February 5-11, 2009
The Denver Center’s black comedy isn’t
by Gary Zeidner
As with A Christmas Carol and White Christmas every holiday season, the Denver Center Theatre Company may want to consider an annual February commitment to performing a play based on the world of children’s entertainment. In 2007, the DCTC put on Martin McDonagh’s searing black comedy, The Pillowman, a play about a children’s author and a set of murders mimicking those in his collection of bedtime stories. The Pillowman provoked the strongest emotional reactions I’ve witnessed at a DCTC performance.
This February, the Denver Center delves into the world of children’s television with Cusi Cram’s political allegory Dusty and the Big Bad World to similar success. Perhaps, in February 2010, the DCTC will bring us a gothic rock opera about Barney the Dinosaur?
Based on their track record so far, I bet it would be a hit.
The précis of Dusty and the Big Bad World explains that Dusty the Dustball is the main character in a PBS children’s show, and when Dusty goes to visit a family with two fathers (homosexual rather than “step”) the show and its creators come under fire. This description might lead one to believe that Dusty is a play about homosexuality when, in fact, it really isn’t at all. Dusty could have visited a family whose parents were abortion doctors, professors of evolution or, in this day and age, devout Muslims, and the rest of the play would have unfolded almost identically because Dusty and the Big Bad World isn’t about gay or straight; it’s about the culture war between the liberal Left and the religious Right. It’s about freedom of speech, intolerance and personal responsibility.
Though titled after a fictitious dustball, it is one of the more human plays I’ve seen in quite a while.
Credit Cusi Cram for crafting a story replete with tiny moments of authenticity. The creators of Dusty don’t decide to inject a two-father family into their show by fiat; they do so because the little girl who won their “Get Your Family on Dusty” contest happens to have homosexual dads. One producer’s palpable conflict between freedom of expression and corporate canoodling rings truer by far when we learn a key fact about her past. The other producer becomes exponentially more human by way of a two-sentence exchange with someone he believes to be his wife on the other end of the phone. The secretary of education’s reference to good ol’ Kappa Kappa Delta during a pivotal conversation with an old sorority sister acts in the same way to turn yet another character into a more complete human.
While Cram has created a jaunty yet thoughtful play that poses important questions about the place of politics in the minds of children, the DCTC brings it to Technicolor life. Director Kent Thompson and Scenic Designer William Bloodgood make excellent use of the theater’s round architecture. Minimalist set elements slide silently on and off, and demark the many locales without ever using a single physical partition. Thompson or Sound Designer Jason Ducat should also get credit for using Rusted Root songs during every scene change.
However, the acting in Dusty is the grandest pleasure. As Karen, the conflicted assistant to the secretary of education, Jeanine Serralles blew me away. Serralles’ Karen, more than any other character, becomes the center of the play, and her performance is award worthy. As Nathan, DCTC regular Sam Gregory once again impresses with his hilarious and nuanced portrayal of a crusading liberal/loving father/put upon husband/television producer. The villain of the piece, Marianne, the newly appointed secretary of education, gives Charlotte Booker an opportunity to play Southern gentility with an undercurrent of viciousness, and she does so with aplomb.
Though it tails off a bit at the very end (I was so hoping that when the final set element rose from the floor we would see a flashback illuminating a key moment in Marianne’s past, but alas…), Dusty and the Big Bad World will have you laughing and thinking out loud.
On the Bill:
Dusty and the Big Bad World plays through February 28 at the Denver Center, 14th and Curtis streets, Denver, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org.
back to top