ACU Theatre’s production of “Is He Dead?” promises a “sparkling comedy” and does not fail to deliver.
The production, which opened on Feb. 7, is a breath of fresh air after the heavy shows the department performed last semester. “Is He Dead?” is written by Mark Twain and adapted by David Ives. The show is centered around the real painter, Jean-François Millet, and tells a fictional story in which the struggling artist stages his death to make his paintings more valuable. Millet then disguises himself as his widowed twin sister and the ensuing confusion is a treat to watch.
The entire cast delivers a hilarious performance that keeps the audience laughing throughout the show. Jacob Alexander leads as Millet and spends the majority of the show in drag, allowing for an array of physical comedy that he handles with ease. Caleb Pierce and Joel Edwards are fireballs of energy as two of Millet’s followers, Chicago and Dutchy, and add to the play’s comic nature. Chelsea Butler gives a sweet performance as Millet’s love interest, Marie, and has great moments of emotion. Jonathan Steffins delivers superb performances as four different characters, all of whom he plays with ease and clarity. The remainder of the cast all give great comedic performances. The actors truly work together to produce a great show.
While the cast shines in the show, the technical aspects are not to be overlooked as they add value to the production. Kari Hatfield’s directing is excellent. Her blocking allows the actors to achieve their comedic best, and the whole show runs smoothly under her guiding hand. Guest costume designer Richard Transki dresses all characters in beautiful clothing that takes the show to the next level. Of particular note are the dresses Alexander gets to wear, which are whimsical and colorful while still believable for the time period. Gary Varner’s set design adds to the aesthetic value of the show with a cozy studio for Millet in act one and an extravagant mansion in act two. The actors themselves change the set during intermission, staying in character and interacting with the audience the entire time. This is a unique twist provided by Varner’s set and keeps the audience engaged for the second act.
With great performances, valuable technical aspects and a hilarious story, “Is He Dead?” provides an enjoyable night at the theatre.
“Is He Dead?” is suitable for the entire family. The show’s remaining performances will be Feb. 14-15 and 21-22 at 7:30 p.m. in Fulks Theatre. Tickets are available online at acu.edu/theatre or by contacting the box office at 325-674-2787.