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Bowie Community Theatre Language of Angels

By • Jul 28th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Language of Angels by Naomi Lizuka
Bowie Community Theatre
Bowie Playhouse, Bowie, MD
Through August 6th
80 minutes
$18/$13 Seniors and Students
Reviewed July 23rd, 2011

Language of Angels is a play by Naomi Lizuka. It is a series of stories about the disappearance of a girl in a cave in North Carolina. The combination of fascinating design and production elements with strong, sincere acting made this an entertaining evening. Now if only the story was not quite so creepy and confusing.

The ensemble cast of “living” actors all told their stories with heart that made them seem more real and added to the mystery of the performance. Each character brought an otherworldly feel to the play.

These “living” characters were accentuated by the two “dead characters” Celie played by Shanice Jones and Celie’s Shadow played by Gary Small. Though not big parts, they were useful in bring the story together. Jones’ flowy gown and Small’s fluorescent gloves and use of sign language made it all seem to flow together, even if it was at times a little confusing as you tried to remember who was who.

The use of levels really made this show work. The opening act you saw Seth played by Ben Brunnschweiler ascend from … somewhere, maybe down in the cave to tell his story about Celie being lost in the maze of caverns. He told his story very matter-of-factly, but in such a way that you knew there was more. Kendra and JB were always shown on the ground level. More like the solid people. Samantha Alagna gave her version of Celie’s demise, but she to was almost too pleasant and left the audience thinking it was not finished. JB was down to earth and matter of fact. Played by Dan Alagna, he appeared throughout the evening to keep things on an even keel. Not to solve anything or bring anything to light, but keep things moving.

The next level was from above at a cliff overlooking a mountain hangout used by “young-uns” to smoke, make out, and discuss life. They were played by Chris Schenk, Bridget Arvidson, Kaeti Bradley and Justin Truesdale. All young with life ahead of them, but how fast things change. JB and Danielle had a final scene together that was well acted with a lot of hidden meanings. This final scene was on solid ground and Celie seeming to come from back behind a curtain and down a step.

Overall the lighting was well designed, although a couple of times there were odd flashes of light. Were they a part of the show to keep the audience off-balance? Or were they mistakes or problems with the equipment? Lighting Designer Garrett Hyde made good use of mostly soft lights to keep a feeling of calmness and night. Sound Designer Kevin Garrett kept any music soft so as not to disrupt the action on stage. There was always an appropriate sound running underneath the action. The running water during the last part at Danielle’s Place was again noticeable, but not overpowering which allowed you to concentrate on the story and emotions.

A somber and at times confusing story, but well created and acted to give it a smooth and otherworldly quality.

Director’s Notes

When I first read Language of Angels, it struck me as a well-written and at times hair-raising ghost story whose strength lay in its multiple perspectives surrounding the tragic death of a young girl. The story is at times confusing and intriguing as a result of the intertwining memories of this emotionally-stifling event told across decades following the occurrence. It is further complicated because the recollections are from characters who may or may not have died as a result of this childhood experience, and others who have survived, but seem permanently damaged as a result of these events.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that this play is more than a Rashomon-like story. It is, as its title implies, about ‘the language of angels.’ It is not about the daily life and experience following a tragic death. It is about life lived in the darkness of our minds, in the darkness of the cave we experienced when we were teenagers, a cave that we see the rest of our lives when we close our eyes, only lit by star bursts and points of light and clarity that exist on the backs of our eyelids….

This play is more about seeing in the dark, knowing things, hearing and seeing things that are not experienced in the light of day. We cannot know whether angels travel up and down ladders between heaven and earth as described in the play. But we can wonder why day-to-day experience never seems to truly illuminate reality regardless of the clarity of daylight. Real truth or understanding exist in the darkness of our minds, where the purest light resides, where starts illuminate the sky of our imagination and fuel our search for understanding.

Enjoy the wild ride into unresolved truths that are the language of angels.

Terry Averill, Director

Note from the Producer/President

Welcome to the 1st production in the Bowie Community Theatre’s 45th season. As we began selecting this season, one thought continued to enter my mind over and over again. How do we celebrate 45 years of theatre and how can we say think you to the community? The answer to the first part came in the selection of the slate of shows for the season. We are celebrating by producing four amazing shows that will challenge us artistically and that will entertain a diverse audience. The answer to the second question comes from tragedy we have seen and heard about. Hearing about a need for aid, the board of directors discussed and voted to give back to the community. We selected our 1st two shows to do this. Language of Angels is written by a Japanese/American playwright who spent some of her childhood in Washington DC. the story is written in the style of Japanese Rashomon, and, therefore, we decided to donate all the proceeds from our opening night Global Giving, a local DC-based relief organization that is helping with Japanese disaster relief. If you are seeing this production after opening night and want to help, please see our house manager and she will help you with your donation to Global Giving.

Language of Angels was a challenging production in many ways. There were technical challenges throughout the production, from creating a set that is a cave, to the lighting and sound that you will hear and see, and I am proud to say that the technical team lived up to the challenge and have created an amazing production. The actors have rehearsed in a space that is nothing like the set and within three days had to adjust to the set with its multiple levels and darkness. We have challenged ourselves further than we have ever done so before. We hope that you enjoy the end result of this challenge. Language of Angels is a story of love and death, it is non-linear, dark, and strange, but the story is powerful and moving. Enjoy and be scared. I hope you walk away talking about what happened in that cave that night and how one moment in time can change your life so quickly and so completely.

John Nunemaker, Producer and President of BCT

Cast

  • Seth: Ben Brunnschweiler
  • Celie: Shanice Jones
  • Celie’s Shadow: Gary Small
  • Kendra: Samantha Alagna
  • JB: Dan Alagna
  • Michael: Chris Schenk
  • Allison: Bridget Arvidson
  • Danielle: Kaeti Bradley
  • Billy: Justin Truesdale

Crew

  • Producer: John Nunemaker
  • Director: Terry Averill
  • Stage Manager: Bernadette Adverson
  • Technical Director: John Mecholsky
  • Stage Production Assistant: Rae Wein
  • Stage Crew: Rae Wein
  • Light Designer: Garrett Hyde
  • Sound Designer: Kevin Garrett
  • Assistant Sound Designer: Walt Kleinfelder
  • Set Designer: Terry Averill
  • Set Construction Supervisor: John Mecholsky
  • Set Construction: Dirk Geratz
  • Set Construction crew: John Mecholsky, Patrick Traynor, Dan Wray, David Manning, Greg Anderson, Bridget Arvidson, Bernadette Arvidson, Rae Wein, Estelle Miller, Chris Schenk, John Nunemaker, Garrett Hyde, Pete Dursin, Jennifer Hill, Eric Mueller, Alex Mueller, Gary Small, Duane Rouch and Ken Kienas
  • Set Painting: Bernadette Adverson, Karen Spitzer, Debbie Samek
  • Set Dressing: John Nunemaker, Debbie Samek, Terry Averill
  • Properties: Bernadette Adverson, Debbie Samek, Joanne Bauer, Chris Schenk
  • Costume Designer: Jane Lecher
  • Accent Coach: Jo Sullivan
  • Master Technician: Garrett Hyde
  • Theater Technicians: Al Chopey, Walter Kleinfelder, Pete Dursin
  • Mailing Administrator: Galen Menne
  • Photographer: Connie Carter
  • Videographer: Mike Dunlop/Dove Video
  • Graphic/Program Designer: Debbie Samek
  • Advertising Publicity: Estelle Miller
  • Webmaster: Myron Cramer
  • House Manager: Joanne Bauer
  • Lobby Design: John Nunemaker, Debbie Samek

Disclaimer: Bowie Community Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. BCT also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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