Theater Review — Annapurna

Annapurna is a deliciously witty and visceral star-crossed romance.

click to enlarge REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD: Paul Potenza (Ulysses) and Angela Bond (Emma) are reunited exes in Jobsite’s Annapurna. - CRAWFORD LONG
REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD: Paul Potenza (Ulysses) and Angela Bond (Emma) are reunited exes in Jobsite’s Annapurna.

“Holy crap!” a frying pan-wielding Ulysses yells upon seeing his ex-wife for the first time in 20 years. Wearing nothing but a dainty yellow apron, a chest bandage and an oxygen pack, he crosses to the window and turns his hairy backside to the audience. From that uproarious opening scene on, Paul Potenza owns the house as Ulysses in Annapurna.

A thoroughly rewarding theater experience on all counts, Jobsite’s Annapurna brings us a relatable story with natural dialogue, benefited by savvy pacing and bravura performances. The production makes the most of playwright Sharr White’s repartee, which marries the witty comebacks of Dorothy Parker and the feral humanity of Neil LaBute. There’s even some eloquent verse, too.

Credit the efforts of Jobsite Producing Artistic Director David Jenkins and wife/actor/co-director Summer Bohnenkamp, who (in their first directorial partnership) facilitate the comedic flow— and wrenching emotional ebbs — of this 2014 play's Southeast premiere.

White’s script takes us to the remote foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where Emma (Angela Bond) drops in on ex-hubby Ulysses (Potenza), who in better days was an esteemed professor and poet. The usually cool and collected Emma is noticeably flustered and shocked by the state of her one-time meticulous ex. The two share some tender moments but are at odds — as much as any couple dealing with alcoholism and a nearly two-decade-long absence.

Questions haunt them: What do you say to somebody who, with your only child, left you in the middle of the night and didn’t answer your letters? Or to someone who drank himself sick, and, as a result, may have committed an unthinkable act? The messy confrontations that follow are believable without resorting to maudlin showboating.

Amply bearded for this role, the usually clean-cut Potenza delivers a whip-smart, tear-jerking, awards-worthy performance. If the play has one failing, it’s that it doesn’t give Bond enough to work with in the initial scenes; her first time seeing Ulysses lacks oomph. Thankfully, both actors start to gel as a former couple. Bond ultimately shows range as the conflicted Emma, who goes from laid-back sarcasm to tearful meltdowns.

Brian Smallheer’s set stands apart from any domestic setting we’ve seen in recent history. Ulysses’ mobile home looks all too real, from the grease stains on the doorways, to the askew books on shelves and random placement of kitschy decor. Lighting Designer Kaylin Gess’s precision adds sharpness to the play’s humor and a tender spotlight or two.

Annapurna gets its name from one of the world’s highest and most perilous peaks, serving as an analogy for our risky attempts to reach some idealized pinnacle. While the notion of unattainable beauty is romantic, Annapurna’s unromantic love story resonates beautifully because of its timeless truths about marriage, mortality and love. 


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