Northampton Center for the Arts & Skyscraper Project
May 17, 2014
by Jarice Hanson
One of the most influential architects of his day, Louis Sullivan transformed city space by constructing the skyscraper; a marvel of engineering and an artifact that signaled the change of urban life and drew they eye toward the sky, complete with creativity, and a vision of endless possibility. In director Chris Rohmann’s skillful hands, the realization of the play, written by David Auburn, becomes a metaphor for the Northampton Center for the Arts’ transformation of a former health club into the Valley’s most exciting new arts space.
The play takes place in 1997 on the eve of the demolition of Sullivan’s last skyscraper to make way for even taller, more contemporary buildings. Each member of the acting ensemble -- John Sheldon, Katelyn Tsukada, Carissa Marie Dagenais, Pam Victor, R. Steve Pierce, and Troy David Mercier -- ably play their parts honestly and with passion. While much of the play takes place with characters in dyads, each group has moments of wonderful connection to each other. The performers go beyond any stereotypical traps of characters playing for the laugh, and as a result, the play richly unfolds and allows the imagination of the actors and the audiences to “see” the building as it was, and suggest may become. Weaving romantic comedy, memory, history, and contemporary notions of what it means to really care for people and art, the play presents the magical realism of theatre and good storytelling.
Director Rohmann uses the space wisely, suggesting a multi-dimensionality of “place” with minimal props, lighting, or theatrical contrivance. Still, the running crew deserves a shout-out for such fine timing and professionalism.
This is the first play to “inaugurate” the Arts Trust Building, which will soon be refashioned into a black box theatre and arts venue. "Skyscraper" involves many of the Valley’s most ardent theatre contributors, and as one of the first public performances in a space dedicated to collaboration and creativity, the play marks an important passage of time, promising good things to come as the arts and the community evolve together.