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Review

The Tales from the Arabian Nights
by Theater Works

THE SHOW:  

The sultan Shahriar has spread terror through his land, marrying a new young woman each night and executing her in the morning with a demonic scimitar. When the Grand Vizier’s intelligent and brave daughter Scheherazade volunteers in the place of her sister Dunyazad, she has a plan. A gifted storyteller, she tells the sultan a compelling story each night. But she leaves it at a cliffhanger. If Shahriar wants to know how the stories end, he’ll have to let her live another day. And for 1,001 nights, she buys herself another reprieve with each tale. Tales that in this adaptation by Michael Bigelow Dixon include The Fisherman and the Bottle, The Snake Charmer and His Wife, Shukat and the Princess Ming, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. But as the bitter and bloodthirsty demonic voices of the scimitar warn a frightened Scheherazade, eventually she’ll run out of stories.  

THE PRODUCTION:  

Director Chris Hamby and his Theater Works team immerses us into the Arabian Nights from the moment we walk into the gorgeously designed set (Michael Armstrong) that includes a beautiful tiled stage surrounded by floor pillows, stylish entryways, and a well-used trapdoor that helps the magic happen. Great costumes by Cari Smith, props by Jason Washburn, lighting touches by Daniel Davisson, as well as lovely hairstyling (Jean Tanton) and makeup (Cate Pinckney) add much to the visuals. As does Paul Pedersen’s choreography and added music by locals Joshua Vern and Skyler Washburn, all combining to complete the magical transportation to medieval Samarkand.  

The stories are staged creatively with a strong ensemble of a little more than a dozen actors who seem to feed off each other as they work as a tight team, all of them transitioning easily between countless roles from the comedic to the dark. Quincy Anntinette Janisse shines as the devious Dalila who helps set the stage for the tales and as a clever fisherman. The tale of the fisherman and the genie segues into Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves with Skyler Washburn playing a consummate everyman with his Ali Baba who, with the help of his brilliant and devoted servant Madison Butler, takes on forty thieves more successfully than did Ali Baba’s extremely greedy brother Kassim (Hannah Grossenbacher), and includes a great death scene by Captain Taylor Lawritson.  

The second act kicks off with the snake charmer Mohammed (Drake Ethan Current) and his too curious wife Zubaida (Hahnna Christianson), both very funny and featuring a melodramatic climax with lights going on and off to reveal brief melodramatic scenes. Scheherazade runs out of tales with Shukat and the Princess Ming, with Dylan Kurtz and Kelly Samson as pen pals whose attempt to meet gets sabotaged by an enchanted oasis – a story filled with great comedic performances by the lovers as well as the troublesome Goblin, Imp, and Demon (Skyler Washburn, Madison Butler, and Autumn Froitland).  

At the center of it all, the newlyweds Ellis Temlak as Shahriar and Claudia Pollack give exceptional performances – Ellis as the moody sultan who slowly becomes as mesmerized by the stories as with his scimitar, and Claudia as she uses her storytelling charms and faces her fears, battling for her life and the lives of the women who would follow if on one night she fails.

Performed September 12 - 28, 2014

Photos by Lea Curtis

Rob Hopper
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Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast ~ 

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Scheherazade: Claudia Pollack
Ali Baba/Goblin: Skyler Washburn
Shukat: Dylan Kurtz
Zubaida: Hahnna Christianson
Grand Vizier/Captain: Taylor Lawritson
Shahriar: Ellis Temlak
Ming: Kelly Samson
Mohammed: Drake Ethan Current
Morgiana/Imp: Madison Butler
Dunyazad: Safiya Valenzuela
Fatimah/Demon: Autumn Froitland
Thief: Max Mendoza
Dalila/Khalifah: Quincy Anntinette Janisse
Speedy: Corrine Seaver
Mustafa/Kassim: Hanna Grossenbacher
Omar: Emilio Cress

Director: Chris Hamby
Music Director: Jennifer Whiting
Choreographer: Paul Pedersen
Stage Manager: Tammy Gilbert
Scenic Design: Michael Armstrong
Costume Designer: Cari Smith
Prop Designer: Jason Washburn
Media Design: Julaine Stark
Sound Design: Chris Hamby & Stephen Christensen
Hair Design: Jean Tanton
Makeup Design: Cate Pinckney
Lighting Design: Daniel Davisson



   

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