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Books on Tape

[The following review appeared in the Denver Post on June 3rd.]

In the world premiere of his 20th play, William Missouri Downs flexes his considerable wit in asking if our ability to live in the present has been quashed by our need for familiar outcomes.

Left to right: (Back) Boni McIntyre, Anthony Bianco; (Front) James O'Hagan-Murphy, Kellie Rae Rockey
L to R: (Back) Boni McIntyre
and Anthony Bianco;
(Front) James O'Hagan-Murphy
and Kellie Rae Rockey
Photo: Ellen Nelson
If that sounds like a lot to get your mind around, fear not, for Downs brings this down to earth in the person of Adriane (Kelly Rae Rockey), an audio book junky, who wants her life to be the incarnation of her favorite taped stories.

We meet her as she's enraptured in a "bodice ripper." Fantasy meets reality as the narrator, the handsome Jeffrey (James O'Hagan-Murphy), suddenly appears and snuggles up next to her. We discover that Adriane met Jeff at a store where she rents and buys her books on tape.

Downs' lively dialogues move easily, between the couple's cooing assurances that they are sexually attracted to each other, to a discussion on the subtleties of time as manifested in the tenses they use—future, present, past, or past perfect (Adriane's favorite)—to frame their conversation.

Rockley sparkles as Adriane, breathlessly weaving fictions into whatever circumstances she encounters. O'Hagan-Murphy deftly moves Jeffrey back and forth, from a hapless, everyday guy, trying to enjoy an intimate encounter, to a Don Juan, systematically enveloping his liaisons.

Downs broadens his satirical targets—from pre-packaged electronic media to psychology and religion—as the plot unfolds. Jeffrey entraps Donna Paige Murphy (Boni McIntyre), a well-known self-help guru, whose books he narrated. "There's something familiar about you," she says.

Meanwhile, Adriane happens upon an exciting new church that she is persuaded to join by "Father" Larry (Anthony Bianco), who mixes and matches practices from various belief systems. Downs expertly milks this opportunity, verbally serving up a series of whipped-cream filled pies in the face of sanctimonious mythology.

McIntyre zestfully embraces Donna Paige Murphy's mile-a-minute pop-psychology, setting Jeffrey and Larry back on their heels. Bianco is one surprise after another, as his Larry morphs through a series of life changes.

In her director hat, Rockey sets a brisk pace that lets the dialogue speak for itself and keeps the laughs coming. Downs leaves us with some thoughtful advice on the importance of being in the present.

Vintage Theatre's world premiere of William Missouri Downs' Books on Tape runs through June 20th. 303-839-1361 or www.vintagetheatre.com.

Bob Bows

 

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