If you go to see “Land of Milk and Honey,” you will be wandering all around the barn of the historic Shoenberg Farm in Westminster when two actors arrive. They are mid-discussion and ready to loop you in. From its start, the Catamounts’ unerringly participating output casts the viewers as participant-observers — normally to tender and illuminating result.
The Boulder-primarily based theater company’s layered tale (prepared by Jeffrey Neuman) of the founding of the farm as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients is factual but also fantastical. In addition to supplying a poignant (and well timed) Colorado background lesson, there will be hymns and dancing, ghosts and really a number of times of winking humor.
In the early 1900s, following the demise of his only kid, Louis Shoenberg funded the making of a sanatorium and farm for tuberculosis people at the behest of National Jewish Hospital. Although its 70 acres have because been eaten up by improvement (there’s a Walmart, Panda Categorical and Starbucks nearby), the Shoenbergs’ barn and a couple of the dairy’s other properties continue to stand near Sheridan Boulevard and West 72nd Avenue.
After the audience is divvied into more compact groups, attendees wend by way of unique rooms and meet up with myriad figures as the saga of the Shoenbergs unfolds.
Chris Kendall provides wounded weariness to his portrayal of the philanthropist. In an specially luminous turn, Christine Kahane plays Seraphine, a agent of Nationwide Jewish who accompanies Louis. And if her identify seems powerful, it really should. It’s derived from the Hebrew Bible’s winged angels, the seraphim, or “burning ones.” A visionary with a gift of gab, Seraphine coaxes Louis to flip his grief into a little something larger.
Shoenberg’s son, Dudley (Justy Robinson), will make a number of ghostly appearances — at moments singing a liltingly mournful hymn, yet another time addressing his father straight.
Directed by Amanda Berg Wilson and carried aloft by a beguiling ensemble, the production’s resonance for the duration of a pandemic is undeniable and neatly finessed. (Look up “tuberculosis pandemic” and you will learn that we still are in the midst of an additional global pandemic.)
Even before this pandemic built the “bodies-in-a-room” arts virtually extremely hard, the Boulder-dependent enterprise had been teasing the this means of that “room.” Doing work in the Dairy Arts Center’s smaller sized theater, they ended up frequently reimagining methods to make that black-box theater fluidly intimate. Past summer time, as the coronavirus roiled, “The Rough” — Catamount’s pleasant meditation on golfing, resources and access unfurled about the greens of Westminster’s Legacy Ridge golfing course.
This marks the company’s 2nd collaboration with the city of Westminster. Much too typically the yoking of a municipal company with an arts purveyor gets an excuse for middle-of-the-highway (too middling) fare. “Land of Milk and Honey” and “The Rough” provide inventive proof that these forms of tag-groups can deliver engaging, entertaining and oh-so-intelligent get the job done.
A quantity of actors below portray two figures. Ruth, a younger individual from the Midwest, welcomes audience users as if they, much too, are fresh arrivals. Carried out by Amelia Corrada, Ruth handles for her worry — and lonesomeness? — with a sweet alertness, an more than-eagerness to share her so lately gleaned insights. Corrada is just as powerful when she provides a satirical aplomb (feel “SNL’s” Kate McKinnon) to her depiction of an beneath-the-gun advertisement exec.
Joan Bruemmer-Holden’s Dolley — a purveyor of frozen delights — is ample, sly and a minor va-va-voom as she tells her tale of woe but also resilience. (Why, “Hello Dolley,” certainly.) Her Carrie is warmly imposing as she conducts a Jewish women’s benevolence club assembly. You will probable vote exactly the way she hopes you will.
As Jacob, a farmer, Sam Gilstrap teaches newcomers how to make a fast-launch knot (I by itself appeared stumped) for the dairy cows. His monologue brims with warmth for the beasts but also is infused with a harm wrought in fleeing Europe’s anti-Semitic pogroms. Later on, Gilstrap portrays Frank, who teaches volunteers to make toiletry luggage for individuals experiencing homelessness. The characters are diverse — seemingly speaking for unique eras — but each and every makes the eddies of sorrow (but also likelihood) palpable.
Significantly like the show asks of its attendees, “Land of Milk and Honey” time-travels. It finds the existing in the previous and the previous in our present.
It requires a particular eye to flip the artifacts of the archive into a efficiency and reveal the methods our things carries on to impart stories. Output designer Matthew Schlief pulls that off, turning a barn into a museum but also a secular-but-sacred sanctuary. He repurposes what had been milking parlors into personal, cement-and-brick theatrical spaces. He sees in a area of grime, rocks and weeds (hint: bring strolling shoes) a dormitory of beds.
Some others preserving the generation evocatively and playfully on level are dramaturg Lynde Rosario, costume designer Nicole Watts and audio designer Max Silverman.
By this level in human record, one might argue that the biblically promised land of milk and honey is always a place in need of creation, the never ever-ending get the job done of human compassion, a lot more than an genuine spot. Thanks to the Catamounts, this “Land of Milk and Honey” is a daring expression of theater’s benevolent alternatives and a worthwhile destination.