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sweet and lucky 2
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
To say that life is sweet and we are lucky is a sentiment reserved for the days spent looking backward. Rare are the moments spent fully present, when the experience and appreciation collide. This summer, in a 16,000 square feet warehouse in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood, a confluence of elements comes together to create a unique experience where life comes alive and the past is fully present. Presented by DCPA Off Center in collaboration with Third Rail Projects, Sweet & Lucky is a theatrical time ballet exploring the nature of love, memory and the objects that connect us to both. Lush, romantic, universal, metaphoric and delightful― there is magic happening here and you feel it.

Describing the event without giving too much away- not in plot spoilers, but careful not to interfere- is tricky for this is immersion theatre. Rather than the traditional sitting-in-the-dark-watching-actors-tell-the-story or the interactive style of Tony & Tina’s Wedding, Sweet & Lucky invites you into its world, takes your hand and guides you through it, while leaving space for the sound of your soul to fill the silence.

It is a story of love through decades and the moments that ultimately define us. My first venture into Sweet & Lucky took me on a deeply personal journey as touchstones of the central relationship reveal the heartaches, kisses, treasures and gratitude that make a life. Audience members are allowed to snoop around in the lovers’ psyches; reading letters, guessing outcomes, drinking in the ambiance a taste of the Sweet & Lucky cocktail created by Williams & Graham mixologist, Sean Kenyon.

Everyone starts together in the huge warehouse space, culled into smaller groups, and moved room-to-room as the twelve performer piece unfolds. Each room is its own environment, designed to evoke engagement through the senses with exquisite visuals, tasks, scents and “audio texture”, contributing to a deeply moving and dream-like evening, bearing witness to the core of the story and finding resonance in your own.

Given the opportunity to return, I took my son, August Witherspoon, curious to see how the evening would play in his open, twenty-two-year-old heart and compared notes over a cocktail in the post-show speakeasy. A few questions led us to the realization that we’d each tracked a different cast-

So we saw different actors playing the same story? I like that, and how you were left to fill in the blanks in what happened; we got different views of the same play. I love how as you’re taken from scene to scene, you start to notice trending objects; symbols and motifs become apparent the further along into the story you progress and wrap around again. Like how every sense is pleasantly utilized, from smelling the chamomile and lavender to the taste of the same herbs in the cocktail. I felt these things starting to have an effect on me― they were not only connecting the story together but they started connecting me to my own memories. You’re watching this story, putting together the pieces and becoming introspective into your own memories of loved ones. That’s never happened to me at the theatre. I realized how many memories I’ve made in my short time on this Earth, many of which I hadn’t thought of since the events themselves. It really makes you wonder what creates a memory, and how the more memories you make with someone, the closer you become with them. I guess that’s why they seem to never dissipate.

How true my son. We’re just spinning around on a rock amid the stars, without reason, making all the memories we can. Sweet.

SWEET & LUCKY is produced by DCPA’s Off Center, a commission of Brooklyn-based Third Rail Projects. Running through August 7 (at which time it must close) tickets are limited, non-transferable, and available at 303.893.4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org

rsz_winterThe Denver holiday season is upon us, a time when the darkest days lean toward the light, and heaven knows we need it. The past month tempts me to turn off the news, flop on the couch and Kurl up with the Kardashians but I’m craving a more fulfilling escape. Something sweet. Something magical. Something with the power to remind me of more innocent times and feel better about the state of mankind. I need a miracle.

Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge. DCPA. Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen

Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge. DCPA. Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen

I’ll start with a stroll through the lights, lots of ’em. Denver Zoo has doubled the size of the Zoo Lights and if the weather allows me to feel my fingers, perhaps my heart will melt a bit, warmed by the artistry and cocoa.

Charles Dickens favorite ghost story, A Christmas Carol, haunts the Denver Center once more. This year’s wassail will be just a bit sweeter as Philip Pleasants takes his bow as Ebenezer Scrooge. Delighting Denver audiences for the past eleven years, Pleasants feels it’s time to put the Ghost of Christmas Past behind him. Now, I’ve seen this show. I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the movies—from Albert Finney to Michael Cain—and I’ve never been more delighted than watching the talented Mr. Pleasants explore the complexities of the human soul. Truly despicable, authentically redeemed, I’m not sure there’s a more apt Christmas story for the 2015 holiday season.

One winter’s tale is sure to sweep me away as Garrett Ammon’s magpie lands on the windowsill once more. Wonderbound’s Winter is a stunning gothic fairytale of love’s loss, the fire of passion and the souls lonely search to find it once more. Performed in their home space, Junction Box, the experience becomes intimate, vibrational as the dancers engage and envelope the audience, just as the fairy cursed into the guise of the magpie wraps true love inside her wings. The original composition, written by Denver Singer/Songwriter Jesse Manley is elegant and haunting, winding you into this sensual allegory of the season. Ammon’s collaborative spirit brings Kristopher Collins to the house to surround the space with a collage of mysterious projections creating a world of layered reality. Scents, curated by Michelle Roark, and flavors provided by local eateries are part of the journey, rounding out the sensory experience. Winter is stunning and unlike anything I’ve seen. This gorgeous, masterful fairytale allowed me the privilege of going deep into the dark of winter, and the hope that spring would come again. Running on December 8-10 & 15-17 with two shows a night, audiences will have the opportunity to choose between an appetizer and dessert show. Tickets here.

If snark and Sedaris is your cup of nog, there’s the Santaland Diaries, a one-man show starring Michael Brouchard as the grumpy Macy’s elf voicing all we hate about the whole affair. An irreverent, hilarious, and somewhat bitter little candy cane, guaranteed to make you smirk.

Another Denver Christmas tradition, Balls! wraps up a six year run as some of Denver’s finest and funniest performers gather their sock puppets for an evening of story, song and Christmas spirit. This year’s beneficiary is The Gathering Place as Balls! rolls into Lannie’s Clocktower Caberet for two nights, Dec. 7th & 14th, doors open at 6:00 to enjoy the food and full bar, show starts at 7:00. Tickets here.

There’s so much more to do in our little postcard, the holidays look good on Denver. But this is my list of the naughty and nice, sure to pull me off the couch.
“God bless us everyone!”