Say You'll Stay


Unusual theatre piece is coming to Denver in March

Bill Thoennes

Accept what is. Let go of what was and have faith in what will be. Those few words form the underlying backdrop to a new “operetta” called Say You’ll Stay, staged by writer and director Ken Crow.

The operetta is an absorbing riff on the trials and tribulations of a doomed relationship and it suggests a more surreal response than most other theatrical love stories. Say You’ll Stay is notable for a tumultuously intense performance by the play’s two main characters, a young singer named Lila, a wounded creature in dire need of nurturing, and the musician and songwriter with whom she falls in love.

The one-act takes place on a barren stage, establishing the sense of surrealism that this oddly satisfying work is grounded in. We don’t know how long Lila and the songwriter were together, it may have been just a few months, it may have been an eternity. “He had a lot of problems, and so did I,” Lila confesses matter-of-factly in the play’s opening monologue.

The romance burned itself out fairly quickly and Lila and the songwriter are now holed up on this bleak stage, enacting and reenacting their irritation with each other. Mark Shelton’s spot-on portrayal of the co-dependent songwriter struggling to maintain hope, and Emily Liddy’s ferocity as the damaged Lila Bloom give the story a real depth. But if you think the first few minutes of Say You’ll Stay are weird, then strap in because you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Both characters have been having nightmares that are now seeping into their waking lives. In those dreams, a piteous old woman named Eloise drifts through with visionary insights on what is transpiring and pleas that seem vaguely threatening. Kat Atwell’s Eloise, initially all grandmotherly, takes the songwriter, Lila and all of us on a mind-bending journey into hell.

As the operetta progresses, the only thing that keeps Lila and the songwriter together seems to be a fear of letting go. As their similar, frightening and unexplained dreams haunt them again and again, Eloise, the songwriter and the singer form a torturous triangle of needs.

The operetta is tinged with Greek myth, thanks to Ken Crow’s band – also called Lila Bloom – that forms a beautiful and astonishing Greek Chorus, providing live accompaniment with songs and lyrics that underscore and comment on the increasingly bizarre goings-on.

The operetta’s visionary qualities are strikingly realized in Ken Crow’s original music. Because making music is an integral part of both Lila and the songwriter’s lives, it feels appropriate and natural for guitarist and keyboard player James Thorburn, singer Amy Burak , bassist Dave Johnson,and drummer Mike Rossi to become the governing voice of the play.

The two main characters are engaged in a passionate tug of war for affection that soon reveals a much deeper, combative relationship that has all the markings of a toxic marriage. “I can’t go on like this anymore,” the songwriter moans. “I hate you! You and that ghost are strangling me,” Lila screams.

But when the doomed relationship ends and the songwriter vanishes, Lila, who up until this point has presented herself as an independent woman, finds herself struggling, wanting o hear his music, the sound of his voice. For her, as well as the songwriter, it is hard to accept what is.

Underneath its wry surface, Say You’ll Stay paints a desolate emotional landscape where people harbor inarticulate dreams of an all-engulfing romantic salvation. Lila and the songwriter are bursting with needs that are impossible to answer. It is a star-crossed romance of accusation and sorrow – but also some exaltation as well. Ken Crow pulls outstanding performances from his cast as he highlights a romance that has fallen apart at the seams.

“I have a couple of bands and a recording studio,” the songwriter tells Lila when they meet. “I heard you sing. You have a great voice. Would you like to be a rock star?”

“More than anything,” Lila admits.

Have faith in what will be. But when you wish upon a star, Ken Crow’s operetta suggests, the answer to your dreams might just come crashing into your life in a form that's very hard to recognize.

“Say You’ll Stay”

Will be performed at:

The Mercury Café March 10 at 2:00 PM

The Walnut Room March 21 at 8PM

For Tickets contact BMITProductions(a)

“Say You’ll Stay”

Written and directed by Ken Crow (ASCAP)

Assisted by Miranda Johnson (stage manager)


Emily Liddy

Mark Shelton

Kat Atwell

The Lila Bloom Band

Amy Burak

James Thorburn

Dave Johnson

Ken Crow