I can assure you, that you will never expect what happens on stage when you see “Spirits to Enforce” at Cleveland Public Theatre. Playwright Mickle Maher has put together quite a whiz bang script that will keep you on your toes. Director Matthew Wright has taken that script, added his precise deft direction, and assembled a fabulous cast that provides more stimulation than a monster drink spiked with Viagra. The story you say, ok, well now that their arch-nemesis, Professor Cannibal, is locked away in a correctional facility, twelve superheroes- The Fathom Town Enforcers- have taken up residence in a secret submarine to tackle the most critical work of their crime-fighting mission… fundraising. The Enforcers’ plan? To stage a “superheroic” benefit performance of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Seriously. Infused with comic book lore, choral arrangement and text from Shakespeare’s beloved masterpiece.
This collection of actors essentially play three characters each. First, who they really are, second, their superhero personae, and third, their character from “The Tempest.” Watching these twelve actors go at it, reminds me of looking at an old fashioned typewriter. As you are typing, you watch the metal pedals with their individual letter swoop up from the curved base, and strike the paper. The individual strokes on the keyboard seem to create chaos, with many repetitive strikes, but when you look at the paper, it makes sense. That is how I felt watching this show. It is twelve actors sitting at one table, a telethon phone bank, and each one never stops doing their thing, ever, all at the same time. If they are not speaking out loud, they are miming their speech, but their faces never rest. The skill of executing this piece, and not having it blow up in your face, is astounding. The cast must hit a spa after the 85 minute show, and the director was probably floating on an inflatable donut raft on a lazy river at Kalahari for a few days after the opening weekend.
The cast is fantastic, and the playbill lays out the three characters they play simply, but I thought I would share their superhero names. David Bugher (as “The Pleaser”), Ursula Cataan* (“The Silhouette”), Holly Holsinger (“The Page”), Tanera Hutz (“The Intoxicator”), Val Kozlenko (“The Tune”), Doug Kusak (“Fragrance Fellow”), Cathleen O’Malley (“Memory Lass”), Brian Pedaci (“The Untangler”), John J. Polk (“The Snow Heavy Branch”), Arif Silverman (“Ariel”), Abigail Anika Svigelj (“The Ocean”) and Sophie Weisskoff (“The Bad Map”). Yep, you got it, this play is nuts.
I had some favorites. Starting off with David Bugher, who looked like a cross between Liberace and a male perfume salesman from Dior, after a Botox induced lost weekend. Holly Holsinger impressed me with the fact that when the play enabled her to have a serious moment, her theatrical gifts generated moments of spellbinding truth, in the middle of a busy intersection. Brian Pedaci worked that mustached face with remarkable wit and humor. Arif Silverman had enough charm, diction and energy to make the audience vote him to be “most likely to have been a Walton in a previous life.”
Photography by Steve Wagner (Holly Holsinger, David Burgher, standing is Arif Silverman)
Composer and Sound Design by Sam Fisher, who is also the Kulas Foundation Theatre Composer Fellow. First, congrats on that honor, and second, your music was very cool and connected to the proceedings. It greatly enhanced the emotional experience. Stage Manager Dan Kilbane ran a tight ship, and called the show beautifully. Costume Designer Inda Blatch-Geib, must have had a blast created this very different entertaining personae. Lighting Designer Jonathan Maag did a nice job, but I think it could have used some more creativity in creating moments. Set Designer Val Kozlenko created a fascination background to the phone bank, and hence, created a cool and curious unsettling canvas for the proceedings.
This production is an artistic win. I don’t know if the production would have legs beyond its scheduled run, because the audience will probably be either impressed and entertained, or completely confused after the show is done. That thrilling aspect, as least for me, is why you should see this show. It is cast with adept actors, directed with pinpoint frenetic colorful direction, and pushes the boundaries of conventional theatre. Of course it does, you are at Cleveland Public Theatre.
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$12-$28 General Admission
Cleveland Public Theatre
6415 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44102