"ANNAPURNA" FINDS HOPE IN HARDSHIP
photo by Ryan Fagan

Keith Wick and Rhonda Hallquist wring hope from hardship in "Annapurna" at Live Theatre Workshop.

Angry enough to kill himself just for spite, Ulysses (Keith Wick) has lived in self-inflicted trailer park squalor for nearly 20 years. Always looming on the horizon just outside his grimy trailer window are the crispy clear Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Though Ulysses looks like he's the prime subject for a country music anthem, Live Theatre Workshop's newest production, “Annapurna,” has more on its mind than twangy depression.

Thirty years ago a play like this toxic two-hander filled with high-octane vitriol would have been written by Sam Shepard as a battle of independent wills and family values spiced with white-knuckled blue collar profanity.

But now that we are in a new century of flowering feminism, the playwright Sharr White has given the female in her cast all the good lines. That would be Rhonda Hallquist playing the patiently hard-nosed Emma, who opens this 90-minute one-act by barging into Ulysses' empty, crumbling life.

Wick and Hallquist are two of Tucson's most respected actors, drilling into each other under Sabian Trout's direction. In some ways the bitter clash of personalities recalls George and Martha in “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

Like the bright red coal that burns within an ashen cinder, this very female/male tradition of opposing forces has fueled the confrontation festering inside each of them during the 20 years they have never seen or talked to each other.

Peering through the waves of spats and pauses in their barbed dialogue, we learn he was a college professor of writing who succumbed to alcohol and cigarettes. Though he has since managed to break free of both addictions, he is left a shell of a man who depends on the oxygen tank hanging loosely on his back.

On the outside Emma looks normal enough, with clean clothes and a sense of order that keeps her moving about his chaotic living space, cleaning and straightening, always trying to neutralize his endless dissatisfaction.

There is also a son that we never see. Now grown, this son wants to meet Ulysses, the father who abandoned him, the father he never knew. But the feeling is not mutual.

Ulysses finally admits, even though he left Emma, he never got over her. His life's work as a writer became an unfinished file box full of notes about needing to climb and conquer the treacherous Annapurna mountain in the Himalayas.

But Emma wants more from him than that. She wants him to want to see that Sam is their son.

“Annapurna” continues through June 10, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.

Tickets are $20, with discounts available. For details and reservations, 327-4242, or visit livetheatreworkshop.org


THIS CARIBBEAN "CURSE" HAS A REAL HOOK
photo by Brian Gawne

Jacob Brown flaunts his hook as Gibbet in "The Curse of the Pirate's Gold."

Arrrrr you ready for some pirates? Especially one that looks like he stepped out of a heavy metal rock band from the 1970s?

Arrrrr you ready for some pirate jokes? Like, “Where does a pirate do all of his shopping? At Tarrrrrget!” “What kind of socks does a pirate wear? He wears Arrrrrgyles!”

Or maybe a pirate who can't resist adding some blues harp to his singing – a knack he surely picked up in some of those questionable Caribbean grog ships. That would be Mike Yarema as the notorious Dryrot.

The rock star pirate with the swashbuckling layered look and long locks of curly hair is, of course, Armen Dirtadian, the Gaslight Theatre's own legendary matinee idol of yore, hoping he lives long enough on the high seas to retire and join A.A.Rrrrrr P. He plays the spirited Captain Scuttle.

Yes, dear reader, it is time for a new Gaslight production of “The Curse of the Pirate's Gold,” written and directed by Peter Van Slyke, enhanced by scenes of rope swinging, sword slinging and cannonball flinging like you've neverrrrr seen before (well, actually you have, but not for several years).

The whole gist of this sea faring tale is about dealing with the uptight British officer Captain Spaulding (Todd Thompson), who is given to some seriously dastardly behavior toward his men.

Once the feisty tavern lass Molly (Erin Thompson) signs up for the Pirate Way, joining Captain Scuttle, Dryrot and Gibbet (Jacob Brown) who is an old sea dog of uncertain heritage, things begin to happen.

But first some pirate justice must be served on board Captain Spaulding's ship, the Regal Eagle, as the unfairly imprisoned Dr. Bartholomew Steele (Jake Coffin) wins his freedom and chooses to join this arty band of singing and harp-playing nautical naughty men.

If only there had been show boats in the Caribbean like they had on the Mississippi River, this musical group of deck monkeys could have made their fortunes as entertainers instead of pirates.

That curse mentioned in the title can only be lifted by the ever-so-proper and deceptively dazzling Miss Prudence Fairchild (Janee Page). It's all about the amulet on a ribbon round her neck.

Well, before all this gets sorted out and good triumphs over evil in its own sunshine salty way, you can count on hearing white-capped adaptations of “The Girl Can't Help It ” (she wants to be a pirate), “We're Out Here Havin' Fun (in the warm Caribbean sun),” “Sail On, Sail On, Sailor,” “Let Me Take You On A Sea Cruise,” “I Just Want To Drink Rum All Day” and the encouraging “Come On and Rescue Me.”

The aftershow olio is another kind of mind trip, dedicated to that happy TV family, “The Brady Bunch.” All six kids are represented – three of each kind – as well as Alice the maid who has a thing going on with Sam the butcher.

And if that's not enough, this Brady Bunch also receives visits from the Partridge Family, the “Welcome Back, Kotter” gang and Kermit the Frog.

“The Curse of the Pirate's Gold” runs though June 4 with performances at various times Tuesdays through Sundays at the Gaslight Theater, 7010 E. Broadway. Tickets (plus tax) are $19.95 adults, $17.95 students, seniors and military, $9.95 children 2-12. For details and reservations, 886-9428, or visit www.thegaslighttheatre.com













PHOTOS COURTESY OF RYAN FAGAN