- Dean D Dixon
Richard Powers: The Overstory
After encountering redwoods in California, Richard Powers was inspired by the mighty trees to write his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory. It describes a world unknowingly tied to the grandeur of trees, centered around the research of a Forest Service scientist who makes an unexpected discovery that threatens her career. Combining the stories of nine individuals—including a college student, an artist and a programmer—who find salvation, meaning and hope in a tree, its premise provides a layered story for those interested in exploring and rethinking the natural in our contemporary world.
Full of life and color, the trees also become characters in their own right, feeding into the story's core message: Without trees, we will perish. Powers skillfully orients us to discover the beauty, resilience, community and pain echoed throughout the forest and planet.
The tempo of The Overstory is a gentle burn that compels the reader to digest slowly Powers' sweeping existential views. It almost reads as biblical, describing the world through illuminating lessons of community, hope and greed, in hopes of leading readers to walk away more enlightened about our lives.
The Overstory adds additional poignance to the fragility of our natural world, inspiring a recognition of trees' power and place in the world. Join the author for an appearance at the University of Utah. (Miacel Spotted Elk)
Richard Powers: The Overstory @ University of Utah Olpin Union, 200 Central Campus Drive, Oct. 17, 7 p.m., $21, kingsenglish.com
- Zac Coberbly
Deep Love: A Ghostly Rock Opera
Deep Love tells the tale of a true love that never dies—which is quite inconvenient for the living.
Told via a through-sung, bluesy-rock musical format, Deep Love focuses on a young widow struggling with her own grief and fear as she tries to meet the demands of her deceased husband. As his haunting continues, their love sours as they become adversaries each in pursuit of their own happiness.
This is the show's ninth year of life and sixth visit to Salt Lake City, just in time for Halloween. Jon Lewis, director and actor in the production, says Deep Love is not the traditional song-and-dance kind of musical. While there is a story to follow along with and characters to love and hate, the show is painted with broad strokes and focuses more on the music than the story.
"I love Deep Love, and I'm drawn to the show because it doesn't really delve too far into a lot of the nuance of interpersonal relationships, but rather it focuses on a lot of those things that we feel and live and die for every day," Lewis says.
Lewis and his fellow cast members recommend that those coming to see the show wear funeral attire; "I think that's going to set the tone for their state of mind when they get there," he says.
The show is appropriate for all ages, though it can be a little loud at times; bring earplugs for younger attendees. (Kylee Ehmann)
Deep Love: A Ghostly Rock Opera @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, Oct. 17-19, 7 p.m., $25, deeploveopera.com
- Joshua Black
Salt Lake Acting Co.: Form of a Girl Unknown
"Coming-of-age story" is a shorthand often used to describe certain kinds of narratives, yet many such stories aren't as prepared to be fully honest as Charly Evon Simpson's Form of a Girl Unknown. After all, it isn't often that the focus of a 12-year-old girl's story is starting her menstrual cycle, and coming to the realization that, in the words of the play's protagonist, Amali, "a week is a different kind of week when you're bleeding."
"Everyone knows what goes on at that age; bodies are changing," says Melissa Crespo, who directs Salt Lake Acting Co.'s world-premiere production of Form of a Girl Unknown. "The topic of a period for women is still very taboo, so the fact that we're talking about it in the play, and the way we're talking about it, is so refreshing. Thank goodness somebody's talking about it in a way that's funny and raw."
Crespo describes Amali (Amanda Morris, pictured right, with Susanna Florence) as a "precocious, very curious child, a voracious reader." While Amali is dealing with the realities of adolescence, the play also explores her fascination with A Midsummer Night's Dream, and with a story of children killed in the woods. "She's a great example of how we should all be thinking," Crespo says. "Ultimately, [the play] is about a quest for knowledge. You can't know everything, but the ways we can fill the gaps in the unknown are with love and imagination." (Scott Renshaw)
Form of a Girl Unknown @ Salt Lake Acting Co., 168 W. 500 North, 801-363-7522, through Nov. 17, dates and times vary, $15-$46, saltlakeactingcompany.org
- Vreni Romang
Pioneer Theatre Co.: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
The title might suggest a connection to events in the national news, but we're not talking about the current inhabitants of the White House. An entertaining offering like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels offers some respite from our chaos and confusion.
Based on the 1988 hit movie starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine as two swindlers intent on cheating an heiress out of her fortune, it was made into a successful musical in 2004. It subsequently scored on Broadway and London's West End, reaping multiple awards and nominations.
For this limited-run production, however, Pioneer Theatre Co. presents a take on this tale of congenial crooks Lawrence and Freddy that isn't a fully-staged production. A "concert musical" similar to those PTC has produced in recent seasons for In the Heights and La Cage Aux Folles (pictured from the 2018 presentation), it eschews some of the elements of a typical stage show in favor of an abbreviated offering that boasts some, but not all, of the songs, choreography, scenery and costuming. Actors hold scripts due to a condensed rehearsal schedule, but a full orchestra is employed.
It's not your typical full-blown entertainment extravaganza, but it's an enjoyable experience regardless. "It's a terrific score, a fun story and a 'good time' in the theater," Pioneer Theatre Co.'s artistic director Karen Azenberg says via email. Indeed, those rascals in Washington can't come close. (Lee Zimmerman)
Concert Production: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels @ Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 19, 2 & 7 pm, $25-$45, pioneertheatre.org