Luke Cieslewicz, KyoSin, and Vanessa Strickland give voice to Holly's friends in the basement- her dolls and her puppet that looks like Carol Channing. This puppet (Dr. McNuthin) gives Holly the adult guidance she desperately is seeking and Vanessa Strickland excels with bringing it to life. Her comedic moments and vocal inflections are priceless. Without someone as strong as Strickland in the role, the puppet could have been too much of a one-note joke, but Strickland made it work. Really work.
Steven T. Royal's scenic design sets the tone for this quirky play. His basement setting is both creepy and enchanted. Debra Crerie and Kay Rzasa's properties designs, including many, many dolls of all types, further add to establishing Holly's world and general state of being. Thomas Sowers' sound designs and compositions are slightly repetitive (especially between scenes and before the show), but they capture Holly's innocence and the eerie world in which she lives. Denise Umland has done a commendable job, in particular, in capturing Holly's youth and oddity in her costumes. Brittany Diliberto's lighting design is appropriately dark for a basement setting. The lighting is used in this play to (in part) focus the audience's attention on the puppets and dolls when they are in speaking mode. There were portions of the stage - particularly the area in which the American Girl, Barbie, and Asian dolls reside- where the lighting did not quite allow me to see the dolls as they were speaking. This may have been a result of my particular seat choice, issues in calling the show/light board operation, or another technical issue in my performance, but it was noticeable.
Minor quibbles aside, Forum Theatre has opened its season strong with this play. I hope Michael Dove keeps on this path of premiering new plays that raise important questions. It's needed.
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission.
Holly Down in Heaven plays through October 20, 2012 at Round House Theatre Silver Spring- 8641 Colesville Road in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, call the Round House Theatre box office at 240-644-1100 or purchase them online.
Photo Credit: Ryan Maxwell