“Honey, I’m Home!” Benson Theater’s “The Shining” Review… And A Little Artwork Thrown In There, Too

If it’s anything Stephen King related, you know I’m there. In a heartbeat.

The story goes a little something like this: Benson Theater, located in the historic community of Benson, was built in 1923 for all things vaudeville. It’s currently closed and needs renovated. The Benson Theater Project is raising funds in order to see to it that this theater is back up and running, and that’s where The Shining comes into play (no pun intended). Artistic director Jason Levering had the brilliant idea of putting on a benefit performance. He knew it would have to be unique, something that would draw a lot of attention, a show that had never been seen before. As a huge King fan, he considered The Shining, which King had originally conceived as a play with five acts, but it became King’s first hardcover bestseller instead. It was perfect, and Levering sent a query to King’s literary and film agents, who sought approval from King. King approved. (I like to think that he approved because he’s so incredibly bad ass, but that’s just me.) Levering and his team got to work, and opening weekend was March 21st and 22nd. I’m glad I purchased tickets when I did, because the three showings sold out. 

I had the privilege of watching Saturday’s 2pm matinee with my husband. It was held in downtown Omaha, at the Sokol building. I’d never been there before, but I’ve often driven by the brick building, which touts concerts for the 20-somethings.

We’re directed to the front, right near the stage. There are fold out chairs practically on top of one another, and I sit next to a man whose lap I nearly acquaint myself with for the next few hours. We are packed in like sardines, but no one cares. Our primary focus is on the stage, which isn’t elaborate. Three doors, one on each side of the stage, and one located center stage. A desk. Thuds and creaking sounds are coming up from all around us, dark and brooding. King-style. As the lights slowly dim, the first two characters come out and take their places. Mr. Ullman (played by Billy St. John), who is the proprietor of the Overlook hotel, and Jack (Marc Erickson) who has been appointed as caretaker of the hotel. From there, I really feel that I got my money’s worth- which was $30 per ticket. Stellar acting, even from Christopher Levering, who plays Danny. He’s never acted before, and this was his breakout role. He was more than believable as a frightened, traumatized kid, and even brought me close to tears in one particular scene, the one where he braves his father.

We sat in the right-hand corner of the room, which was where the boiler was located. Jack’s job is to tend to the boiler twice a day, and whenever he did, a mist of smoke would emit from the metal piping. The scenes that include “REDRUM” are showcased in red, digitally thrown above room 217 and over by the boiler. A phantom tree sits lurking off stage left, and moves mechanically. I appreciated that the acting wasn’t limited to the stage alone. The actors used the crowd, the front of the stage, the sides and even the balcony to perfection. Although there were a few mic glitches for Jack (some static), and there was a pause too long at one point during the show, I was impressed with the job the actors and stage crew had taken on. It was no surprise that everyone received a standing ovation. It was more than deserved!

 

Stephen King has authorized more showings, if the first three proved to be a success. I’m really hoping this isn’t the last we’ll see of Jack, Wendy and Danny!

****

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Earlier in the week I accompanied a friend to Corky Canvas, located in midtown Omaha. She was on her fifth trip to the little space that boasts “Paint-Drink-Enjoy”, but this was my first time, and I’m no artist! We’d chosen a night that was booked solid, and the two long tables had a multitude of easels and canvas. Paper plates for paint (you pump the colors, and they tell you how many pumps you need) and cups full of water. Two brushes, a big one and a little one. No fancy brush names. A full-service bar with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I chose a tasty moscato. We had a cute female instructor who walked us step-by-step through the painting process, and although I stuck to her guidelines for the most part, I wanted to do my own thing. The instructor used white for the sun, while I used yellow. I incorporated more green in my work of art. It looked nothing like hers when I was done, but I didn’t care! It was a fun time, and it felt good to be creative! There was positive energy with everyone in the room, and when it was all over, a kind lady who had brought food in a basket (she hadn’t known food wasn’t allowed during the painting session) was given the green light to bust out her crackers and hummus, edemame, and turkey balls. She shared with my friend and I, as well as the friends she’d brought along for the ride. The employees were awesome and let us sit and chat for a bit while they cleaned up, and too soon it was time to head home, hands covered in blue and white paint. My shirt got a little splatter too, but it was totally worth it!

My son’s painting, on display right now at the Lied Center:

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I don’t know where he gets this artistic talent. Certainly not from his mother.

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