What did people do when they were stuck at home before the internet? Tell stories? Go crazy? Go so crazy that they can’t tell the difference between stories and reality? Spark’s production of Rear Window is a stage adaptation of the 1954 Hitchcock movie that explores just that. An injured photographer (Jeff) with a restless spirit becomes obsessed with the mysterious movements of a couple in an apartment that can be seen through his rear window. The entire play toys with the audience’s perception of what is really going on and what is in Jeff’s imagination.
Living Space Well-Suited for One-Room Drama
HE SAID: First with Dangerous Liaisons (see our review) and now with Rear Window, Spark Theater is showing how spot on they can be at selecting shows for their intimate living-room-turned-theater space. This time they have shifted their audience seating from the back of the room to the side allowing for use of the entire length of the room as well as adding variation in entrances and exits by providing access to three doors (as opposed to the one in their first show). It also allowed for the practical necessity of using the bay window to which our hero is glued night and day. On the downside, this meant the audience was moved away from the lone air conditioner in the room making for a very uncomfortable 75 minutes in the 90+ degree heat.
SHE SAID: Spark Theater should definitely be commended for choosing a production that fit extremely well into their unique space. Based on their one previous offering, I’m not sure if I see a clear continuation from the rich, language-based, sultry Dangerous Liaisons, to the spooky but somewhat superficial Rear Window. And I’m not sure if they decided to produce Rear Window before they secured the space, but the bay window really made the space perfect for the piece. Spark once again achieved the remarkable feat of producing a fourth wall by the tone of the performance, unable to rely on distance or lighting to separate the audience from the actors. The scenic design was simple but an extremely effective and natural use of space.
Pauses in Action Halt Suspense
HE SAID: Not make a comparison to Dangerous Liaisons, but this show didn’t feel quite a natural to me as the former piece – especially odd given Rear Window is more contemporary. Part of that feeling seemed to me to come from some pacing issues with the piece – unfortunate for a show that relies on constantly growing suspense. There were some dead spaces interrupting the flow between scenes, which made the actors in the following scenes come across as though they were trying to push the energy back up. The heat might have compounded that problem, but I was never able to fully lose myself in the drama.
SHE SAID: I think that the gaps in the drama were an unfortunate consequence of the transition from screen to stage. I felt a bit torn about them — although they slowed things in the long run, in those moments, I was impressed that Brian Brooks (Jeff) was engaging to watch, at his strongest when he was following through on the inspired actions of his character. Even throughout the pre-show, as he sat looking and taking pictures out of the window, he was believable and interesting to watch. When sitting to discuss with other characters during the scenes, the natural quality of his performance faded just a bit. Both Brooks and Amy Gasparik as Lisa had a very slightly exaggerated quality to their performances, which might have been hard to detect in any other sized theater, but came off as a bit forced in a space with nowhere to hide from the audience, just mere feet away from the performers.
Supporting Characters Move Mystery
HE SAID: I felt a wavering sense from Brooks and Gasparik as well. They would get into it at moments and others left me feeling a bit unaffected. However, the supporting performances of Linda Suttle as Stella and Mike Pearl as Doyle were delightfully complete for as little time as they spent on stage. Suttle was a funny in the early parts of the show and really delved nicely into the more intense moments of action as the drama unfolded.
SHE SAID: I’m totally with you here! My favorite performance of the evening came from Pearl as Doyle. His performance was relaxed and natural, and he handled the somewhat dated language most naturally. I also enjoyed Suttle as Stella – she also had a realistic quality to her performance that fit well into the intimate setting. I think I also enjoyed that the two of them really moved the plot along and accelerated the drama and mystery, as supposed to the stand-still feeling that sometimes occurred with just the romantic leads onstage.
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Spark Continues to Use Unique Space to Advantage
THEY SAID: Although perfectly suited for their unique space, Spark’s Rear Window failed to hook us completely into the suspenseful plot. Whether it was the uncomfortable temperatures, or the intimate environment that made it hard to ignore the effort that went into some of the performances, we found ourselves wishing that things would move along a little faster. However, it was a rare opportunity to participate in such intimate environmental theater, and we appreciated the thoughtful attention to detail in pulling off this feat (Spark delivered the program from the production in a film canister, which we loved). There isn’t another venue in Denver offering such a unique theatrical experience, and so overall it is worth the trip!
For a full history and plot synopsis of the Rear Window film, see the wikipedia article. Rear Window plays through August 14 at Spark Theater. Click the banner above for tickets and more information.