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Annapurna

Twenty years after leaving in the middle of the night, never to be heard from, Emma (Kate Gleason) tracks down Ulysses (Chris Kendall) and shows up at the doorstep of his decrepit trailer in the low-rent district of Paonia, Colorado. Boulder native Sharr White (last season's BETC and Broadway hit The Other Place) once again impresses with this intelligently written and poignant tale of an irrascible poet and his fiery muse.

Chris Kendall as Ulysses
Chris Kendall as Ulysses
Photo: Michael Ensminger
The action grabs us from the get-go, with witty dialogue and short, funny scenes, not to mention Ulysses' outrageous initial get-up, which we'll leave for you to experience.

The shocks come at every turn, from circumstance and past revelations, with Gleason and Kendall going at it like two ex-lovers who know how to push the other's every button, as if the physical and emotional tolls of the years on Emma and Ulysses were mere hours.

Kate Gleason as Emma
Kate Gleason as Emma
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Ulysses, a noted poet in his younger days, has not published anything since the breakup. He admits, under Emma's prodding, to have written only one poem in that time—but what a poem it is! In the remarkable climax, Kendall's eloquent delivery reveals the extent of the playwright's gift: there is no artifice in White's portrayal of Ulysses as a poet, as his eloquence is apparent in the first stanza:

Oh, God.
The sun, the couloirs, the fall-lines, the echoes in the canyons.
You, out the window, on the fire escape, the pigeons uprooted.
Last night's skirt, there, on the bed lamp,
The sun pinking the gendarmes.
Certainly in the optimism of this morning
It is easy to believe the climb to the peak will be a simple one:
The base camp has been established,
Water has been boiled, whiskey has been added to the tea.
The constellations have turned half around the earth and faded,
And now you, there on the black iron grating;
Our hike last night through the cafes and bars towards your
Upper ridges laughable, really.
The summit desired to be approached,
this is the only thing I can surmise;
Its thin air inhaled, an enticement and a threat, both;
Here, you told me, here, you whispered, here, you bit;
The skirt, the bed lamp, the breath, thick at first,
And then thin on the upper reaches of the slopes,
The brightening blackness, and at last, at last, oh God, the sun.

Chris Kendall as Ulysses and Kate Gleason as Emma
Chris Kendall as Ulysses
and Kate Gleason as Emma
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Ulysses calls his epic poem Annapurna, in homage to the famous 26,545' massif, which has the highest climber fatality rate in the world, to the famous, ill-fated first ascent, which was scaled, but not without exacting its tribute, and to his and Emma's relationship.

Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's regional premiere of Sharr White's Annapurna, directed by Rebecca Remaly, runs through February 16th. For more information: 720-898-7200 or boulderensembletheatre.org/.






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