THE HEARTBEAT OF THE SUN – Written by Melissa Lucero McCarl; Directed by Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski. Produced by Cherry Creek Theatre (presented at the Pluss Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 South Dahlia, Denver) through May 19th. Tickets available at 

When attending a recent performance of this exciting new production, I had the pleasant opportunity to say Hello to Kathy Brady, a long-time rock-solid stalwart at the Denver Center Theatre Company back when we enjoyed a true repertory company of actors. The current play at the Cherry Creek Theatre was written expressly to be performed by the two actresses now playing the parts. Kathy Brady also took part in a production that was written for her and fellow DCTC actor Jamie Horton by Nagle Jackson called BERNICE/BUTTERFLY. This would normally be a dream situation for any pair of actors and Mr. Jackson’s play did go on to be published and enjoyed at least one future production. This too is, of course, what playwright Melissa McCarl hopes will happen to her new script – that other seasoned actresses will take on the roles in future productions. But how odd that would be after seeing the premiere performance with our favorites. 

Two women who have given their lives to theatre are now relegated to a care facility with all the normal restrictions and complaints inherent in that sort of housing. But they manage time alone to reminisce about their past glories on the stage, the pros and cons of the commitment to that life, and the saving grace of their friendship. Through the thin veil of time, we watch their younger selves meet, bond and grow together toward experience and professionalism in their chosen field. Through a symphony of scenes, we witness the talent they have nurtured. But at what a price? However, both actresses profess that they wouldn’t have changed anything about the choices they have made. Except maybe the place in which they are now living. 

The featured actresses, Billie McBride and Anne Oberbroeckling (just a heads up, Anne. If you ever go into the movies, that last name will never fit on a marquee!) have appeared in numerous local and national productions, won every award Denver has to offer, and have fans that flock to see everything and anything in which they appear. This production verifies that adoration is well-deserved. Both women can crack wise, drop a delicious one-liner, AND perform Shakespeare with ease and fluency. They catch the poignancy of their present situation, revel in their true friendship (both on and off stage) and demonstrate the pain that comes with growing older and watching the world pass you by. But nothing is passing Anne and Billie by; they are both hard-working theatre professionals to this day and beyond. Slow down? Not in their DNA. 

The actresses that portray their younger selves, Lorraine Larocque as Bea and Maggy Stacy as Althea bring their own special charm to the roles. They provide both a precursor and an echo of the older women and explain their long-term connection. Friendships built on common goals and shared experiences is the best kind. Throughout the play, we hear about Javier, Bea’s grandson, and finally meet him in the waning moments of Act II. But Daevon Robinson is worth the wait as he begins his own theatrical journey under the tutelage of Althea. 

While the portrayal of a theatrical life is certainly illustrated with this script, it is not the life story of either actress. While they have certainly appeared in some of the plays and places mentioned, their own lives have taken different turns. The beautifully poignant ending of the play has certainly not happened. This is a love song to theatre and the people that work on the stage to bring joy to the rest of us.  

The set designed by Tina Anderson is a work of art with a wall-sized cabinet displaying trophies of their past lives and accessories to their present life. The cabinets underneath the shelf unit open to display pull out furniture. And provide a resting place for the animated plants that being to infiltrate Bea’s slide into dementia. A hilarious and unexpected device! If only the play could have been written with fewer back and forth scene changes which – no matter how efficiently made – could not help but interrupt the flow of the story. 

You don’t have to know a lot about theatre to enjoy this production. It will probably answer any curiosity you had about why one would ever choose this life. It is, however, a special experience for those who have welcomed theatre into their life in whatever form. Another short run – only three more performances. Run – don’t walk to get your tickets !! 

A WOW factor of 9!

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