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The Colorado Catechism

by Rich See

It takes courage to grow up and become who we really are.
---Donna Sicard

Cecil Baldwin and Deborah Kirby
C. Baldwin and D. Kirby
Journeymen Theater takes a look at the perils of alcoholism and coming to terms with one's life in its very funny two-person play The Colorado Catechism. Following Ty and Donna's meeting at a Colorado rehab facility, the piece looks at how two people change each others lives, help one another to survive and then part company. It's really a laugh fest even as it examines the serious aspects of why people try to escape into drugs and alcohol.

Written by Vincent J. Cardinal, the action takes place at the Roger Goodman Drug and Alcohol Clinic in Cripple Creek, Colorado. Run by a never seen, militant former addict, Ty and Donna become their own support network as they maneuver through he steps to their sobriety and ultimately their adulthood. Because even as they each accept their drinking, they still have to accept the hiding they do from the reality of their own lives. Bisexual Ty flirts with everyone, looking to others for his own center of power, while Donna uses constant self-negativity as a way of sabotaging her own life. It's only when they begin to take an inner responsibility for who they are that they are able to move forward in their lives.

Director Jeff Keenan has put together quite a wonderful team to create a a serious comedy that exudes great chemistry. The gazebo staging by Ryann Lee serves as a multi-use backdrop for a mountain porch and a Manhattan artist studio. With just benches and a few props, the production focuses on the dialogue and the actors, who keep the entire piece moving at a great pace.

Cecil Baldwin, as famous painter Ty Wain, is both charmingly rakish and mischievous while also allowing us to see just how immature Ty really is inside. He's a famous artist who has simply fallen into everything that has come to him. Others have made the decisions, he has simply gone along with the flow. Even his backers -- managers, gallery owners, etc. -- have forced him to come to the treatment facility. When he arrives he connects with Donna and then becomes increasingly determined to have her become a source of emotional and physical support without thinking of either of their best interests. As he realizes he has never truly loved another human being, he begins to see he has used sex as a commodity and getting people to love him as a source of validation for his life. Mr. Baldwin shows a sardonic wit as he makes innocent observations that cut to the chase and brings a physicality to the role that keeps us liking him from beginning to end.

For her part, Donna -- played by Deborah Kirby -- is filled with a self-loathing that seethes with resentment for other people whom she feels have more than her. Employing Donna's defense mechanism to keep the world at bay, Ms. Kirby throws out the one-liners in expert fashion. Yet at the same time she pulls us into Donna's pain -- but never overwhelms us -- thus we never lose sympathy for this single mother who at one time almost caused her son's death. When she says she agrees with a former nun's idea of "...a sort of undependable, enthusiastic God..." who creates and then promptly forgets, as his attention span wanders, she highlights the humorous outsider aspects of Donna's nature. And as she anxiously awaits a car to take her to see her son, you realize how much insecurity has marked this three-time rehab attendee's life.

The Colorado Catechism provides a rare treat -- a chance to watch two versatile and talented actors create a serious and comedic chemistry that builds to a touching crescendo and then sweetly fades into the soft night.

The Colorado Catechism
by Vincent J. Cardinal
Directed by Jeff Keenan
with Cecil Baldwin and Deborah Kirby
Scenic Designer: Ryann D. Lee
Lighting and Sound Designer: Bryan Miller
Costume Designer: Melanie Dale
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with 1 intermission
A production of Journeymen Theater
Clark Street Playhouse, 601 South Clark Street, Crystal City
Telephone: 202-669-7229
WED - THU @ 7:30, FRI - SAT @ 8, SAT @ 2; $15-$20
Opening 04/21/05, closing 05/21/05
Reviewed by Rich See based on 04/26/05 performance
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