Author: Elise Hanson

Blood, bellicosity, bile, and bawd become THE REVENGER’S TRAGEDY

PROVO — It has been nine years since Vindici’s wife Gloriana was poisoned by the Duke for spurring his advances. Now she is but a skull, carried around in ghoulish fashion by her husband, who seeks vengeance for her death. As they say, you gotta play the long game. Having never seen a Jacobean production outside of William Shakespeare, I was looking forward to my introduction into that world as presented by the Grassroots Shakespeare Company, a troop I have come to trust to put on a delightful and informative show. Once again, they did not disappoint. The Revenger’s Tragedy was everything I was hoping it would be: gruesome, lewd, funny, devilish, and entertaining as all get-out. As is the usual with Grassroots productions, this play was mounted traditionally. This meant that the actors worked collaboratively and without a director, memorizing their lines individually and showing up to rehearse for just a few days before performing. I am ceaselessly blown away by their ability to do this. These are serious actors who know their craft, and they have such fun together, making everything they do look effortless. Davey Morrison Dillard is, in my opinion, one of the great talents of Utah. In this production he played Ambitioso, the son of the duchess, and a plotting knave who is trying to take over the dukedom by arranging the deaths of his brothers....

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HERAKLES is a fresh, creative take on classical Greek

SALT LAKE CITY — As one of Greek myth’s most popular and beloved characters, Herakles is most widely known for his daring feats of courage, fortitude, and epic demigod strength. The lesser-known part of his story, however, is what happens after he returns home from battle. A soldier himself, Euripides (the playwright) had firsthand knowledge of the psychological trials that awaited warriors upon deployment, and his Herakles is an examination of the brutal reality of post traumatic stress disorder in a time that didn’t have many resources for those afflicted. Director Hugh Hanson has chosen to move the setting of Herakles from ancient...

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Weak dialects muddy strong acting in THE WITNESS

SALT LAKE CITY — In the spring of 1994, the Hutu majority government perpetrated a mass genocide against the Tutsi people of Rwanda, leaving 500,000 to 1,000,000 dead. Vivienne Franzmann’s stark, focused play The Witness shines a spotlight on a group of people affected by this holocaust: an award-winning photographer, the daughter he rescued from the scene and raised as his own, and the orphaned brother left behind. An examination of white liberal guilt and the ethics of journalistic information, this story is as painful as it is honest. As the British photographer Joseph, Andrew Maizner led the cast as a solid...

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Music carries THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY & BESS

LOGAN — When I was a pre-teen, my stepfather used to walk around the house bellowing, “Bess, you is my woman now; you is–you is,” in his lovely baritone voice. That, along with the iconic “Summertime” were my introduction to America’s classic Porgy and Bess. Set in the 1930’s, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (with music by George Gershwin and lyrics and script by DuBose Heyward, Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin) tells the story of a close-knit black community whose romances, religious beliefs, and vices lead to violence, sorrow, and difficult lessons. At the center is a crippled man named Porgy, who...

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Powerful, evocative, important: UFOMT’s “Ragtime” relevant today

LOGAN — At its core, Ragtime is a story about America. Not at its best, but at its most hopeful. Hope that someday—someday—things will change. People will be more kind, the world more gentle, governments more compassionate, and systems more malleable. As I write this, I am still overcome with the emotion that this story ignited. To say that this piece is timely is an understatement. A central plot point features a peaceful black woman being beaten to death by police officers because she is thought to be wielding a gun. And it is veritable evidence that the stories we tell exceed...

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