Saturday, January 30, 2016

"'Til Death" by Bucket Brigade at Art House North

On the heels of seeing a new original locally created musical about dating, I went to see a new original locally created musical about marriage. It must be (almost) February. But even though 'Til Death is written by a married couple, stars two married couples, and is directed/music directed by a married couple, you don't have to be married to enjoy it. It's a charming, silly, funny, and at times poignant musical comedy about life and relationships.

Vanessa and Jeremiah Gamble are co-Artistic Directors of Bucket Brigade, and co-wrote 'Til Death as a way to "take an inward look at our own struggles of trying to practice forgiveness and live out a committed relationship."

They play Olivia and Ethan, a couple who has recently separated and finds themselves alone in a cabin in the woods on their 15th anniversary weekend, thanks to a Parent Trap like trick. Alone, that is, until obnoxiously happy newlyweds show up at their door with car trouble (played by real life marrieds Maureen Sherman-Mendez and Ben Bakken). Freddy (her) and Leslie's (him) ooey-gooey overly affectionate love is in stark contrast to Olivia and Ethan's troubled marriage. But nothing is as perfect as it seems, including Freddy and Leslie's marriage. Each couple tries to help the other couple through their problems, and in doing so is somehow able to see their own problems in a new light and work through them as well, agreeing to live happily ever after... 'til death.

Jeremiah Gamble, Vanessa Gamble, Ben Bakken, and
Maureen Sherman-Mendez (photo by Bonni Allen)
This lovely small-scale musical features piano accompaniment by Michael Pearce Donley, husband of director Joy Donley. Art House North is an old church turned into an art space, which makes for a unique and intimate space to watch theater (although they need to do something about the uncomfortable pew seating). There's no need for amplification in a small space like that, which allows the beautiful voices of the four actors to ring out clear and pure. The score is clever, funny, and tuneful, with some nice repeated themes throughout the show.

The former altar space of the former church has been turned into a cozy cabin by scenic designer Katie Phillips, with warmth created by lighting designer Courtney Schmitz. Behind imaginary walls we see the bathroom and a bedroom, in addition to the open kitchen and living room areas, which allows for private and not so private conversations between various pairs of characters as they move around the space.

'Til Death is a funny and poignant story with catchy songs and great performances by two married couples as two married couples. These are professional actors, they don't have to actually be married to play a convincing married couple, but knowing that they are adds a level of truth to the proceedings, I imagine for the actors as well. It's a charming little musical, and I would say that they could cut out intermission and make this a short and sweet 90-minute-no-intermission show, but then when would they serve the complimentary cupcakes and (good) coffee?! That's right, not only does your $20-25 ticket price get you admission to this charming show, it also includes dessert! All other theaters - take note.

'Til Death continues through February 13.