MIDGE AND THE BUTCHER – Written by Quinn Smola; Directed by Sarah Sheppard Shaver. Produced by Springs Ensemble Theatre (Presented at the Fifty-Niner Speakeasy, 2409 West Colorado Avenue, Colorado Springs) through October 15. Tickets available at 719/357-3080 or SpringsEnsembleTheatre.org. 

Quinn Smola who wrote this monstrous missive is a college student, not far from the age of his high school heroine himself. This undoubtedly explains his ease with the teen vocabulary prevalent throughout the script. And his familiarity with the monsters that hide under the bed, in the closet, and in the halls of your high school. This is not his first play, but he shows a lot of promise, having a firm grasp on the character, the dialogue and a talent for telling a story with a minimum of diversions. In addition, apparently, he made the truly terrifying mask for his monster Xantheus.  

A skulls head adorned with a skeletal bird’s beak and goat’s horns. It was cleverly devised that you couldn’t see any of the face behind it, its mouth moved when he talked, and his eyes were invisible until he turned them on you and stared. The monster, known as the Butcher, was performed with great gusto by Isaiah Culling. While the rest of the costume included padding to create Popeye arms and Sumo wrestler legs, the bulk of his fearfulness came through his ferocious voice and ability to snap into cruelty mode without warning when upset. The Butcher was aptly named. Conversely, he became more like a Baker when bored with waiting for the “right time” to strike and showed great understanding and compassion for Midge’s dilemma. 

The Midge of the story is just entering high school, problems enough. But at the same time, he is transitioning into she, much to the dismay of her best friend. Rose Mitchell used the nervous mannerisms (uncontrollable hands, fussing with her hair, hesitation in her speech) of a teenager in turmoil to create a character on the edge of a breakdown. Calling forth a monster from Hell was a last resort. Little by little, the consequences became evident – both comic and horrific. 

In the second act, we finally meet her tormentor, a fellow student named Hunter (appropriate) whose own journey into puberty is upset and confused by the changes in his friend. Instead of trying to understand, he lashes out with anger and confusion. His cruelty is rewarded by a session with the Butcher during which his fear and pain is palpable. Gabriel Meadows brings a believable nastiness and reluctant repentance to his character. 

The acting space at the new Speakeasy space is tiny, just big enough to realistically portray the treehouse room in which the play takes place. SET will have to choose carefully their future shows to fit the space. Each of their upcoming plays this season fit into a single room or backyard set. The Fifty-Niner, when it’s not being a theatre, is a small restaurant/bar behind the Dice Guys Game Store. You kinda have to know it’s there because there’s limited street side signage and you go through a door at the back of the game store to get there. They are planning live concerts with solo performers and small bands when SET is not using the space for theatre. A real find with good pizza. 

A WOW factor of 8! 

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