Are you a puzzle aficionado? Do you scour the pages of your local newspaper for the crossword puzzle every day? Are you under the impression that the Sunday crossword is the hardest? Is Will Shortz …
Are you a puzzle aficionado? Do you scour the pages of your local newspaper for the crossword puzzle every day? Are you under the impression that the Sunday crossword is the hardest? Is Will Shortz your hero? (Or are you asking yourself “who is Will Shortz?)
If you answered yes to any of the above questions – or even if you answered no – you’ll still enjoy The Crossword Play (or Ezmeranda’s Gift) playing now through July 10 at The Studio at Shadowland Stages in Ellenville.
“The Crossword Play” – a world premiere production – written by Donna Hoke and directed by Mêlisa Annis, takes us on a journey through a puzzle-making workshop. At first, it’s strictly educational, teaching us the nuances, the ins and outs of those little squares – how many there are, why are some blacked out, how the answers come before the clues … but, as the lesson continues, it gradually it becomes more of an emotional story.
You see the puzzle that’s being created is a gift for the creator’s former lover. And the person who commissioned the puzzle is his new girlfriend. So, as some people are fond of saying when asked about relationships, “it’s complicated.”
Actress Kyle June Williams plays The Puzzlemaker or “cruciverbalist.” That’s the proper title for a constructor of crosswords, and it’s likely you’ll never find that as an answer on any puzzle.
Williams’ comic roots serve her well in this part as she bounces around the stage, relishing her role as teacher and creator. It’s all very light and fluffy until she needs to show her well-honed acting chops and get into the nitty-gritty, emotional, frenetic and powerful ending. She’s also adept at improvisation, having studied the art and performed it in several different venues. Throughout the play, her character involves the audience, asking questions and expecting answers. It is, after all, a classroom.
Director Mêlisa Annis keeps the action moving throughout, using a three-quarter round audience configuration to focus the teacher’s attention to the “students.”
One of the play’s elements that can be better utilized is the Puzzlemaker’s costume. The jarring, form-fitting, tri-color ensemble is distracting and took some audience members’ focus away from the drama of the performance.
So, come learn why “love is square," why crosswords have themes, what’s “diagonal rotational symmetry,” and whether you’ll ever have a use for pangrams, unches, partials and cheaters.
“The Crossword Play” will be performed at The Studio at Shadowland Stages, at 14 Market Street in Ellenville through July 10. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. For tickets or more information, visit ShadowlandStages.org or call 845-647-5511.
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