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Fiction

Who's to say anymore what's fact and what's fiction: Six corporations own most of the mass media in the capitalist world and freely distort every news article they print, yet they pretend to be appalled when one of their reporters makes up facts; one radio conglomerate in the U.S. owns over 1,200 stations and controls the most important concert venues (70% of ticket sales), thus determining what artists get heard and seen; plagiarism is rampant in both fiction and non-fiction markets, and where it's not, fact is published as fiction and imaginary events are positioned as non-fiction.

Photo of John Hutton as Michael and Martha Harmon Pardee as Linda
John Hutton as Michael and
Martha Harmon Pardee as Linda
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Like the manipulative world of media and propaganda, Denver native Steven Dietz' Fiction, now running at Curious Theatre Company, blurs the lines between what happened and what was imagined or borrowed from someone else. Husband and wife Michael and Linda Waterman are both writers who keep diaries. Compelling events bring them to share their diaries with each other. After that, all bets are off as to the past and the future.

Directed by Denver Center Theatre Company member Jamie Horton, the play focuses on the psychological and emotional conflicts that arise between the married couple, and between each of them with Abby, who on separate occasions acts as host to each of them at a writer's retreat.

Photo of Karen Slack as Abby, John Hutton as Michael, and Martha Harmon Pardee as Linda
Karen Slack as Abby,
John Hutton as Michael, and
Martha Harmon Pardee as Linda
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Surprising for a play that begins and ends in a Paris cafe, with sojourns to the steamy jungle of South Africa, the romantic heat is strangely absent. Instead, the outspoken certainty of each character's words occludes any physical indications of attraction except where grief comes into play.

As the lights come up, Linda and Michael are arguing whether Janis Joplin's rendition of "Piece of My Heart" or John Lennon's "Twist and Shout" is the quintessential rock 'n' roll anthem. Twenty years later, contentiousness still defines their relationship.

Photo of John Hutton as Michael and Karen Slack as Abby
John Hutton as Michael
and Karen Slack as Abby
Photo: Michael Ensminger
John Hutton's Michael is easy-going and engaging, yet well seasoned with cynicism. He is fluent in the art of seduction, effortlessly inviting himself to a woman's table or her bed, his loyalties at the mercy of his erotic imaginings.

Photo of Martha Harmon Pardee as Linda
Martha Harmon Pardee
as Linda
Photo: Michael Ensminger


Where Michael sees that marriage is not a tell-all, but a pact between strangers, Linda parlays a shocking medical condition into a pretense for "honesty." She may be "achingly vibrant" as Michael described her at their first encounter, but her obsessive intellectual scratching eventually sucks her life dry of romance. Ultimately, it's her secret that is the most shocking. Martha Harmon Pardee has the difficult task of drawing our our sympathy while shoring up Linda's suspect integrity, which she admirably achieves until she passes from the stage.

Photo of Karen Slack as Abby and John Hutton as Michael
Karen Slack as Abby
and John Hutton as Michael
Photo: Michael Ensminger
When it comes to the needy insecurities of writers, Abby has seen it all, so perhaps it is too much to expect that she would show much vulnerability with either Linda or Michael. Yet she shares different forms of intimacy with both and becomes a central figure in their writings. More a muse than a confidant or lover, Karen Stark's Abby gives as good as she gets with the erudite couple while ultimately mirroring their emotional distance.

Though the story captures the slippery nature of both literary and personal truth, and the performances are seamless, one wonders how passion might have altered our perception of the characters and their priorities.

Curious Theatre Company's production of Fiction runs through June 24th. 303-623-0524 or www.CuriousTheatre.org.

Bob Bows

 

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