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Cappies International Theater Anasazi: The Pahaana of the Prophecy

By • Aug 6th, 2008 • Category: Cappies

In a faraway magic land of a golden dawn, spirits reign and hearts are tested to see if love will conquer and go on. And on it went – onstage, that is, in the lovingly crafted tribute that is Anasazi: The Pahaana of the Prophecy, a musical performed by the gifted students of Cappies International Theater.

The late Bill Strauss, co-founder of the Capitol Steps and the Cappies program, was inspired by the American Southwest to write the pensive book and lyrics to match the deep and moving score by multiple-Grammy nominee Peter Kater.

An intensely lyrical piece that combines today’s money culture with ancient Native American traditions in the Southwest, Anasazi tells the love story of Becca, an uptight white investment banker, and Qualee, a fiercely traditional member of the Hopi tribe. Becca is on the reservation for Canyon Homes, a development project spearheaded by the ruthless Kookya, a pushy woman believed to be the last descendent of the ancient and mystical Anasazi tribe. Questions of love and justice abound as Becca and Qualee struggle to either support the project or take a different path on the “Road of Life.”

For most students, Anasazi would be rife with challenge: a vocally-demanding score, Katy Burnard‘s extensive choreography, and intricate technical work. Yet the Cappies cast and crew effortlessly succeeded, creating a believable, Hopi-centered world bursting with energy and color.

Max Lebeuf easily mastered his role as confused moralist Qualee, whose love for a woman blinds his love for the tribe and its traditions. He played the role with a fierce devotion, but not without touches of comedy and a signature grin. His passion and charming voice gave Lebeuf a natural stage presence. Equally as engaging was Katie Ryerson as Becca, a tightly wound businesswoman. Her love for Qualee came off as authentic and sweet, while Ryerson’s monologues yakking on her cell phone were performed with a humor and anxiety that made for an endearing character.

Sarah Swire hit it out of the park as Kookya, the fierce antagonist who cares for money, her reputation, and little else. Swire’s enjoyable performance featured feisty dancing, smooth vocals, and an unstoppable stage presence. Her adorable, dorky cronies Prescott (Chris Weschler) and Winslow (Ian Geldart) broadcasted a wide comic appeal with klutzy mannerisms and accented speech.

Lolma, a jealous Hopi woman skeptical of Becca’s intentions with the reservation and Qualee, was played by Sarah Byrd in a rich vocal performance of memorable and enjoyable songs like “Two Women” and “Love Goes On.” Her sister Taawi (Kim Ness) and white brother-in-law Griffin (Zach Mays) gave inspired lessons on love with flawless interaction and lovely duets. Pa’a, played by Jake Zumoff, roused the audience from the first song, “Golden Dawn,” and remained lively throughout, often accompanied by the animated ensemble and the melodious Kachina (Reuben Schwartz).

A technical marvel, Anasazi came together with the use of vibrant and colorful props, makeup, and costumes, created in a flash by the talented Sara Lavenhar and Mimi Lynch. From floating spirits and gorgeous masks to modern Hopi-inspired dress and believable bronzed faces, the production was a visual feast. Vivid set pieces created by Sarah Stephens, meant to resemble the red cliffs and valleys of the Southwest, were enhanced by a creative and oft-used turning platform. Ashley McCusker‘s lighting hit all the right notes, using multi-colored gels and symbolic darkness to perfectly highlight the performers. While the presentation’s sound quality was occasionally marred by small blips and squeaks, the performers never struggled to be heard.

Like the butterflies that Qualee and Becca longed to become, Anasazi: The Pahaana of the Prophecy was a delicate, beautiful, and enjoyable production that was there and gone in a flash, leaving the audience only wanting more.

Written by Julia Katz, McLean High School
Nominated Cappie Critic, 2008

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