Thanks goodness for actor Chris Kendall.
So went my thinking as I drove home in silence after watching the Super Bowl with a very superstitious — and demoralized — football-loving quintet.
Art can be a balm. In its own way, the Sunday matinee of Sharr White’s “Annapurna” built a cushion before the dismantling.
Which is a funny thing, given the tense mountain minuet taking place between Ulysses (Kendall) and ex-wife Emma (Kate Gleason) in the one-act set in Ulysses’ trailer hovel.
At the start of the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s superb production, the lights go black to punctuate the prickly joke that begins the play. After 20 years absent, Emma arrives, suitcases in hand.
Where there’s luggage there’s sure to be emotional baggage. And there’s plenty here, including the reason Emma high-tailed it into the night with their 5-year-old son. Now Emma fears that son is headed to reconnect with his poet father.
This is all the set-up you need to know. Bits and pieces of the most recent life Emma fled will be parceled out. And we’ll learn more about the son Ulysses wrote letters to over the years. White is adept at stoking the dialogue while mysteries simmer.
One of the things that becomes clear quickly is that Kendall is a heck of an interesting actor. Gleason gives us searing moments, especially once Emma’s passive-aggressive intrusion gives way to the play’s most uncomfortable — and fuzzy — memories.
But “Annapurna” feels like Kendall’s moment.
Acting is a trust exercise. Performers need to feel that the director — here, a deft Rebecca Remaly — has their back. Or in this case, Kendall’s exposed backside. He’s wearing an apron, a backpack for oxygen and a long rectangular bandage on his chest when we meet him.
Ron Mueller’s set gives us a cutaway view of Ulysses’ squalid abode. Books are stacked haphazardly.
Much like Kendall’s hunker into Ulysses’ ailing body, the set feels just right for this fresh sorrow.
Lisa Kennedy: 303-954-1567, email@example.com or twitter.com/bylisakennedy