Disclaimer: A reviewer for BITRSisters is in this production. The reviewer writing this knew nothing of the play, and was not involved, but we thought it fair to warn you.
Iron Crow is celebrating their ten-year anniversary this year. The have been beset with previous problems, but, do your research. They have also taken tremendous strides toward being a safe and nurturing environment. Many artists we love, admire, and respect have worked for them this season and have nothing but positive things to say.
Bare has been described as a pop opera, a coming-of-age rock musical, or a day in the life of a closeted gay teen stuck in a Catholic school. The Catholic Church has taken tons of bad press lately, in fact within 24 hours of writing this more charges have been levied against the church for sexual abuse. Do they not see the issues? The stance I found online is as follows: “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” Read that a few more times. It is making my head spin with circular rhetoric.
Bare is about Peter (Brett Klock), a gay Catholic high-school student who is in a relationship with his roommate, Jason (Benjamin Eisenhower). Jason is a popular jock who is still closeted. This romantic turmoil is the center conflict for the production, although there are others that follow, such as drug use, raves, pregnancy, weight issues, and more. It is a loaded weapon of a show, and often moves briskly from one topic to the other with little downtime. You might have to make some time to breathe.
Brett Klock is the protagonist as Peter, and his voice is ethereal. He hits high notes effortlessly, and has a verge of tears look sometimes that plucked at my heart strings. His songs such as the titular “Bare” and “See Me” are particularly poignant. He looks every part the struggling school boy and he embodies this role whole-heartedly. His lover/counterpart is Benjamin Eisenhower. I really loved him in this role but was slightly dismayed to see that he had played it before. He is best when he is flipping his allegiances. His devotion and love to Peter is believable and palpable, his distance and anxiety with Ivy (Catelyn Brown) is also suitably juxtaposed.
Ivy is played by Catelynn Brown. Her sad soulful shuffle with tuneful tones struck to the core of her character. Her anger and turmoil radiate past the stage when she is left behind, and her character seems the poster for most of the issues teenage girls face. Her counterpart/roommate is Nadia, Aileen Mitchener. Mitchener gets to sneer some of the most snippy remarks of the night, and lead a rendition of “Birthday Bitch!” which should honestly just replace the classic original forever from here on out. Her angst is the opposite, she feels shunned and shamed for body image and flouts her way through life. The two add a nice second layer to the primary boys’ conflict at the center.
The rest of the ensemble round out the high school students who party, sing, and act as supporting cast. They are strong and memorable, all for different portrayals. Brian Dauglash is Lucas, a rapping drug dealer who likes the ladies; Hana Clarice is an angel with a dark side, who can really belt it out. Patrick Gorirossi is a semi-nerdy partier who gets more than he bargained for, Nikolai Granados is Matt the student who sees Jason and Peter kiss and makes it his mission to call them out on their behavior. Part of his reasoning is spite, Jason is seeing Ivy, the girl he wants to have for himself. Arianna Hooberman-Piniero is Rory, Sam Slattow is Diane, and Bailey Walker is Kyra- all girls who support Ivy, befriend Nadia, and keep the tempo up and running for the next musical number.
Danielle Harrow comes back to Iron Crow to play Sister Chantelle with a bang. She, along with Mitchener, get to actually say what they mean- where the rest of the cast is both Catholically and sexually repressed. Her quips at the students are a little funny, and a bit irreverent but one hundred percent perfect. And her song “God don’t make no trash” is a show-stopper. Somebody get that woman her own show!
Director and Choreographer Sean Elias keeps the pace tight and the action mounting. The dance numbers are crisp and direct. Set Design by Jericho Stage and Bruce Kapplin is a structural wonderland. A modern and deconstructed version of a church with techno lights and cold metal towers, it seems ominous and overbearing- much like the church itself. And the giant cross over the stage is a constant reminder that God is watching. When Rebecca Dreyfuss is Claire, Peter’s mom, standing above taking phone calls, she is so tall, her lighting seems to get lost sometimes in the lights of the cross though. When Jonas David Grey takes that same stage as the Priest, something different occurs. The lighting that Thomas Gardner assigned to the Priest is mesmerizing. The pink and purple strays of light that filter into wings, and back out into the space; the blend and blur the Priest’s image and words, it is so gorgeous and metaphoric, and I just couldn’t look away.
Unless I am missing something though, the songs are not listed in the program anywhere. And there is a Sound Designer listed (Sam Lee), and a Music Director (Charles Johnson) but there was no live band or orchestra playing. It appeared to be a recording. I did like the pre-show music and intermission music, which were all choir boy covers of classical pop songs from the 90s and it was a lovely addition on the piece.
Costume design by Managing Director April Forrer was delightful. The students all had renditions of a traditional Catholic school uniform, while the sister and Priest stuck to black. The pops of red in a sea scape of white and black was a nice touch and keeping the basics neutral allowed the lights to really shine and colorize the world of the play without overdoing the saturation.
The program does have an interesting tidbit I read again when I got home. That Sean Elias and River Hansen have completed training in Theatrical Intimacy Education. The intimacy was choreographed exceedingly well. It looked real, connected, and genuine, but it also looked staged to a trained eye. I mean that as a high compliment. It looked, well, safe. I have worked many productions and had the pleasure of meeting one or two Intimacy Choreographers. I did some more reading on this group and was intrigued by what they offer. Something for us all to look into friends.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? Go now and see this production before it closes 12/15 (only a two week run! Hustle, ya’ll!) Delightful and decidedly timely in its message, the centerpiece of the show is a gay boy trying to find his way, but the story, the set, the lights, the supporting cast lend a plethora of other timely topics to be discussed post show. A though provoking and exquisitely executed production. Utterly lovely to look at and to listen to. Take some friends and set aside some time after to discuss, you might need it. (I)
Running through December 15th at Theater Project. Running time about two hours and thirty minutes with one fifteen-minute intermission.