Stories can be told in many ways. Sometimes they are said verbally from person to person. Other times, like in a show, they can be told in the set pieces used or through other technical elements. Ankeny Community Theater is stretching its storytelling muscles with its current production of “Aura,” which kicked off on April 1.
“Aura” by Tommy Lee Johnston tells the story of Mike, a man who can see different colors of auras around people. It gave him the ability to tell when things are going to happen. He introduces himself to Earl, a man sitting alone in a park feeding the birds. It soon becomes revealed that Mike knew by the aura of Earl’s wife that she was sick and was going to die before she died. He then has to explain his story about a lady named Amanda and his story with Dr. Emily Wallace, to show why he doesn’t interfere when he sees people’s auras. But what aura do Mike and Earl have, you ask? You’ll have to watch the show to find out.
What fascinated me about this show was how director Barbara Wagner decided to tell the story. The story is told with just a bench, visible on stage in front of a bush, as soon as the house opens. She pursues her vision by bringing a prop or setting to tell the story. Now, while setting up the chairs momentarily interrupted the flow of the show, it didn’t detract too much from the story she was trying to tell on stage. The other way she tells the story is through the lighting behind the bush. As different auras are mentioned, we see the background color change to represent what is happening in this scene. While for me the change was unexpected at first, it ended up working well once the initial surprise wore off.
The cast is led by Josh Sampson, who returns to Ankeny as Mike. What’s funny about this show is that he’s the only person who speaks with every character in the show. So he has the difficult task of juggling what each of these relationships means to Mike. Josh does a great job showing the growth of each of these relationships as they come in and out of the show. While we never know what causes Mike to see these auras, Josh does a fantastic job of giving us an idea of what it could be. He brings some interesting ticks to the character that we see throughout, and his character has a breakdown on stage. It was a fantastic performance to watch.
Another standout performance during the performance came from Tammy Sposeto. His soft-spoken Amanda is the perfect match for Sampson’s Mike. Although we don’t often see her character on stage during the show, she makes the most of her time on stage, leaving the audience wanting to know more about her character’s story. She also does a wonderful job creating a character offstage and making it feel real and vital to the scene that is currently unfolding onstage.
The show also includes two additional performances which made the show a pleasure to watch. Al Price returns to the Ankeny scene as the Earl. His Earl has the character traits we love to see in our stereotypical old men on screen and on stage. These traits make her character a lovable character that you can’t help but root for in the end. Crystal Winklepleck returns as Dr. Emily Wallace after making her Ankeny debut in “Geezers” last December. She does a great job of bringing this doctor to life that allows her to let her guard down with her patient and lets her reveal things about herself that she hasn’t shared with anyone else.
If you’re looking for a night where you can sit back and see some fantastic performances, I highly recommend taking a trip to Ankeny for their production of “Aura”. From a minimalist approach to terrific acting, each part comes together to give audiences a delightful story they won’t soon forget. To learn more about these productions, visit https://www.ankenycommunitytheatre.com/
The review was written by DC Felton
Follow Broadwayworld for all the latest Des Moines Theater news
Visit and like us on Twitter and Facebook @BWWDesMoines