Right now there are at least two excellent shows set in rural locations playing in Colorado--and the country and the plays could hardly be more different.
At the Denver Center The Legend of Georgia McBride has become a sensation. It's about a charming if run of the mill married Elvis impersonator whose act is running down in Florida's panhandle. His fortunes change when he is thrust onto the stage in a drag show, and he finds he has a real talent for what at first appalled him. The cast of 4 actors (including the wonderful Jamie Ann Romero, who has appeared on our stage too) are fabulous, funny, and endearing while playing different sharply drawn roles and both genders. The bright design is terrific, the jokes are good, the pace is what it should be. Many of us in the audience agreed it was just about the best time we ever had at the DCT.
Meanwhile in our own house we have a show set in rural Ireland. Though full of ghost stories, The Weir is decidedly not sensational. Mostly it's four guys talking, one woman listening. The plot is unaggressive and almost circular. No one has changed all that much when the play ends. If you decide not to pay attention, you could fall asleep in this pub--and that would never happen at Georgia's drag show.
And yet it is The Weir which may survive as a modern classic, a reputation it has already earned. Georgia McBride has all the flash and most of the fun. But in ten minutes you know all there is to know about the characters, and the plot is both tidy and thin. By the time we get to the second act there is very little left to learn, and the play's moral seems a little trite and easy outside of S.A. (Southern Alabama). The Weir, by contrast is unassuming and almost bashful about its revelations and movement. Yet by the end of the play we have traveled further and deeper into the interior. We learn how each of the story tellers is haunted in different ways, how each is isolated from and comforted by other people. You may leave the theatre thinking not much has happened, and in some ways you would be right: tomorrow will not be so different down at the pub. But after The Weir's one hundred minutes,you may also find an abiding glow in a new place in the chambers of your heart. It's a little like sipping a good glass of whiskey--it takes time for the flavors to come through and the chakras to open. You have spent some time with interesting, ordinary people. You've gotten to know them. You've actually taken a trip to Ireland. And you've heard some really great stories, each of which lets us travel well beyond the boundaries of the ordinary into a numinous landscape.