Theatre Review: Desert Stages Theater

Last night, Liz and I went to see a play at the Desert Stages theatre located near Scottsdale Fashion Square mall. If you are into smaller productions, it’s a great place to see a locally produced show. And if you are an actor/actress type, there are active casting calls for upcoming productions of several plays.

The atmosphere of the building was cozy, but a little feminine for my tastes. The decor was 50’s Hollywood, complete with stars on the walls and plush red velvet accents. According the Liz, there were no remnants of the former nightclub. The once open building now houses two separate production spaces. The “Actors Cafe” stage seats 50 people in four rows of seats. A theatre at its best is an intimate experience and this will not disappoint; there are no seats in the smaller space that are less than 10 feet from center stage.

We got to peek our heads into the main stage as well. The emphasis on immersing the audience into the production was evident in the design of the main space as well. There are entrance points for the actors on all four sides of the space. The main “stage” was not a stage at all, but an open space on the floor surrounded on three sides by a few rows of seating. I’m really anxious to see a play done in this style, particularly if they ever decide to take on Shakespeare.

The play we saw was Mornings At Seven, which we were led to believe was a comedy. Since neither of us had much knowledge of the play or it’s reputation prior to walking in the door, it’s hard to say if the lack of humor was due to the acting or to the script. But, for as much as the theatre space itself was a pleasant surprise, the actual play was a disappointment.

The play was written in the 1930’s, and touches upon themes relevant to the lifestyle of the time. The plot device that was supposed to keep everyone going was the apparent mental illness of one of the male characters. But, at no point did I ever buy into the anguish of this character enough to sympathize with his predicament. Matter of fact, there were several soliloquies delivered within the context of the play which were moments forced upon the audience rather than earned by the actors on the stage.

I’m not quite sure if my inability to connect with the story was as a result of poor acting or just an irrelevant script. In the end it all results in the same thing though. My advice: go see a show at Desert Stage theater, just not this one.