THE OPEN HOUSE – Written by Will Eno; Directed by Jack Krause. Produced by Bas Bleu Theatre (401 Pine Street, Fort Collins) through March 10. Tickets available at 970-498-8949 or 

Can anyone remember the Anthony Hopkins movie a few years back called THE FATHER where things kept moving around in his apartment? The people caring for him looked young one moment and old the next. He kept getting more and more angry because we – the audience – were led to believe that his caregivers – including his daughter – were being deliberately deceptive to him and you (and he) couldn’t figure out why. It ultimately turned out that he had had a stroke, and his perception and memory were skewed. His mind had slipped into partial dementia. He told his daughter in a lucid moment that he was losing “his leaves, the branches, the wind and the rain.” There’s a lot of power in the words describing “cognative ability” these days. This character’s had gone off the track as was revealed at the end of the movie. 

The Father figure in Mr. Eno’s play seems to be going through the same thing. His family does not respond to him or his needs the way he thinks they should. They have gotten older; they don’t look the same. He is rude to them in his confusion and frustration and doesn’t understand why they are rude right back. Anger seems the only solution and it doesn’t really help. Mr. Eno himself once said that “I like hearing people in pain in rooms with good acoustics.” He certainly succeeds in this production. 

Suddenly they all one by one leave him on this errand or that. Then the fear hits hard. Even worse, the house suddenly starts to fill up with people again. But who are these people? He doesn’t know any of them. What are they talking about? Why are they pulling down the wallpaper? The chaos in his living room matches the chaos in his brain. 

This excellent cast doubles up on the roles, playing both the members of the dysfunctional family and the intruders in the house. They turn out to be a real estate agent who is showing the house, a set of prospective buyers and a couple of guys who might be involved in a remodel. They seem totally oblivious of his confusion and anger, typical in some circles of the treatment of our elders. 

The beleaguered father is Kevin Reifel fresh from the OpenStage production of SWEAT. He succeeds in both his gruff and helpless old man in a wheelchair and in his tennis playing counterpart. His wife in the family (Corinne Wieben) shows her angry frustrated side as well as the perky half of the prospective buyer-couple in the second. The other two-sided members of the family are Kiernan Angley as the son who later becomes the redecorator and Bryan Hill, an uncle ridiculed and downtrodden in the beginning who becomes a landscape designer in the latter. Leah Rohlfs charms as the daughter in the first family and the real estate agent hot on the trail of a sale in the second. Once your mind adjusts to what the heck is going on, you must respect their ability to pivot into new roles halfway through. 

The director, cast and crew came up with an interesting dumb show to get us into the family home. The only thing on the stage as you enter the theatre is a standing sign announcing the open house. As the lights dim, the cast begins to carry on furniture pieces and greeting each other warmly. They seem as though they are long absent family members working together to put their mutual home to rights. The crew moves in walls while the cast continues to make adjustments while getting a little older and less friendly as they go. Until finally we have the full set in place, Father in his wheelchair surrounded by the frustrated and mentally exhausted members of his family. A view of what was and what it became. Very clever – 

A WOW factor of 8! 

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