THE ROAD TO LETHE – Written by Jeffrey Neuman; Directed by Betty Hart. Produced by Benchmark Theatre Company (presented at 1560 Teller St, Lakewood) through May 18. Tickets available at 303-519-9059 or 

Every theatre company in town has its own reputation, its own signature, its own modus operandi.  Curious does pieces that Miners Alley doesn’t take on; Vintage does things Firehouse wouldn’t touch; Lone Tree starts off a new season of theatre with two old favorites.  And that’s OK and as it should be to accommodate the eclectic tastes of the Denver theatre-going public.  But few in town can touch balls-to-the-wall Benchmark for bold gutsy controversial theatre pieces.  Does it mean they win with each one?  It’s up to your personal preference. 

My personal preference was a little shaky on this new piece.  Don’t get me wrong.  The actors did a fine job with the script they were given; the tech was impressive and there was an interesting story trying to be told.  It just didn’t feel quite like a cake yet.  Jeffrey Neuman is an amazing storyteller.  He did a great job of telling the story of The Headliners last year; I’ve seen several of his scripts that were interesting and enlightening pieces.  

A story drawn from Greek mythology translated into modern sensibility could have used a little pre-education in the publicity or program for those of us not well-versed in the Greek traditions. Research done after viewing the production disclosed that the road to Lethe of the title is one that needs to be crossed by the dead to forget their former life and progress into their next. Those that choose not to make that crossing stay mired in their memories and desire to return through the thin veil back to their former existences to complete unfinished business or impart a message to a loved one. Our hero in this case is Kal, a handyman mourning the loss of his brother. He is hired by three sisters to open and put together whatever is inside a huge box from Prime. The sisters compete for his time and attention using the appearance of power, wisdom and love as their tools. But what is their power? Do they display outstanding wisdom? How can love be so fraught with menace? 

Kal seems a gentle man torn between trying to put a world together as he works on creating a globe at his workbench – and – listening on the TV to a world being torn apart. Behind the thin veil that makes up the back wall of the set, we observe a man walking back and forth beside the unseen river, pondering his future choices and regretting his former acts. He ultimately makes a choice just as Kal is finished completing his task as well while none of the sisters seem to get whatever they wanted from Kal and fade into the background. I hope these observations from my viewing may make it easier for future observers to enjoy the production. 

Kal is created by Arthur McFarlane III, a welcome new face on the Denver scene. It seems he has filtered his own personality into his stage character because of the quiet way he talks and the deliberation with which he tackles his construction project. He never gets upset yet seems to be a man carrying a heartfelt burden. eden origin puts down his dancing shoes (almost) to take on a serious role as a soul torn by indecision and regret. It’s a little hard to imagine Arthur’s gentle giant and eden’s pixie like persona being related, but they make it happen.  

The three sisters are portrayed by Christine Kahane, Barbara Porreca, and Jennifer Condreay – all three talented and dedicated actresses. Again, while in appearance they are unlikely family siblings, they bond together to teach and reach Kal with their life lessons. Barbara wields her candy like a scepter; Jennifer creates a stately teacher who enjoys a lesson in the use of power tools while Christine seduces with her overwhelming empathy. 

The set designed by Tina Anderson, while simple, creates a realistic living room on the border of eternity. Some startling and effective sound and lighting effects were designed by Marc Stith and Neil Truglio. Susan Rahmsdorff-Terry did her usual fine job on finding authentic clothing for the actors. Whoever found that giant box from Prime did a heck of a job with props. Good job, either Colby Bleicher or Haley Johnson. 

Two weeks left in this run. Please share your personal observations about this production in the comment section. I’m truly interested in what you thought. 

A WOW factor of 8.25!! 

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