University of Northern Colorado

‘Fenda Maria’ sets quite a spell

By John Bromley – Greeley Tribune

The odyssey of Fenda Maria is a children’s story, a fantasy rich in adventure, romance, and a surprising amount of humor.

Directed by Mary Schuttler, the show stars Zac Twardowski, a wonderfully energetic freshman who capers nimbly through a variety of moods and roles, at one moment a frenetic witch doctor and the next a charismatic prince.  Twardowski is aided in all this by pretty Neyla Pekarek, his companion on his jungle journey, who plays the title role, Fenda Maria; together they trek past witches and all sorts of other dangers, so that Fenda Maria may week 12 vials of tears.  This she must do in order to put her fragmented prince, like Humpty Dumpty, back together again. 

This is a sweet show, and both Twardowski and Pekarek glow.  He is an antic witch doctor, all over the stage and often very funny, Pekarek, who falls in love with him, is adorable throughout. 

Among the hazards they surmount is Takaya, a portly, wonderfully comic head witch brought memorably to life by Devon Buchanan.  Takaya is assisted in her devilment by two associate witches in roles created by two of the University’s most divine players, Kate Gorski and Alysha Fields.  Gorski falls in love---languorous, hugely comic love---with Twardowski, while Fields, more constant with witches’ faith, remains a spell-caster.  Takaya labors wonderfully but in vain in wrongdoing, and her scenes with her witch associates are among the show’s finest. 

What the show isn’t, witches and all, is scary.  If my grandchildren were here I’d take them all; I also invited my friend who is 3 to join me, knowing she’d be amused rather than frightened. 

The show is interactive, audience response asked and freely given.  Several monsters rise from the back of the hall, notably Eli Holdman’s Tiger Man, an imposing figure on stilts.  There is a king, played by impressive Asedo Wilson; Blake Joseph is a congenial narrator, and I particularly enjoyed Yumarie Morales’ swooping bird talker.  The others---messengers, villagers and friends---are all perfect for their roles, making a pleasantly reactive chorus.

The show is staged on parts of Marie Davis-Green’s attractive set for “The Tempsest,” which opens next Thursday.  I enjoyed Schuttler’s direction, as I always do, and passed a very pleasant hour with the play.  Round up the children and grandchildren with whom to enjoy it.

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