Fayette County

Writing, acting convey turmoil of young lives

If You Go

'Dancing with Dani'

What: World premiere play by Tim X. Davis, presented by Bluegrass Community and Technical College Theater and Film Program.

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 6-8.

Where: Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St.

Tickets: $12 general admission; $7 faculty, staff and students; available at the Downtown Arts Center ticket office. Call (859) 225-0370 or go to http://lexarts.tix.com.

Oh, to be a screwed-up 20-something. We've all been there, or at least know that messed-up feeling. You know, the feeling that you've been driving down the interstate for hours, with no idea your exit was two hours ago and even if you did know, there's no place to turn around.

In other words, all of us really do get lost sometimes and some of the most formative wandering and searching we do is in early adulthood.

Enter the world premiere of Dancing With Dani, the latest installment in Bluegrass Community and Technical College's burgeoning theater and film program. Penned by program director Tim X. Davis, Dancing With Dani explores the kaleidoscope of emotions, psychological missteps, and social overcorrections that often accompany the defining years of early adulthood.

Davis' debut as a playwright is highly promising and one hopes to see many more full productions of his work. Hallmarks of his writing include fast, sharp, quick-witted dialogue copiously peppered with pop culture references from the '80s and '90s, not to mention the requisite nostalgia-inducing soundtrack. Funny, profane, but most of all, real, Dancing With Dani is accessible to anyone who's gone through a confusing period of personal upheaval.

The show centers on Jason (dynamically played by Zack Hightower), a young man who learns his pregnant wife has died in a car wreck. Although the baby survives, Jason is so pained that he can't bring himself to even see, let alone name, his first child. Soon, we learn that there is more to Jason's aversion to the child than just grief. But, before we can understand his actions, Jason takes off to his hometown of Austin, Texas.

Haunted equally by the ghosts of retrospection and the shadowy unknowns of the future, Jason hangs out with a cast of wildly raunchy and deeply loyal childhood friends who help him find direction by seeing his past through the lens of adulthood. These three best friends are a delightfully colorful bunch, clear audience favorites, who possess vibrant, quirky flaws and redeeming courage. They very much define the spirit of the play with their swirling mix of edgy idiosyncrasies, intertwined conflicts and comforting familiarity.

Jeremy Gillette is regal perfection and knee-slappingly hilarious as the resident queen, Derrick. Kevin T. Greer is gregariously charming as Denver, an artist with a country drawl and a cowboy hat and described by Derrick as a "flaming heterosexual." And Sarah Tackett is heartbreakingly realistic as the well-meaning friend who is secretly (or not so secretly) in love with Jason.

Speaking of romance, Jason's journey through the past is something of a journey through past relationships, one of them being Dani, achingly and compassionately played by Katie Stanley. Suffice it to say that, by the end, we understand that everybody loved everybody at some point and they all hurt each other, of course, without meaning to.

Innovatively staged, the play utilizes three large video screens that occasionally feature black and white flashbacks from Jason's earlier years. Mike Tuttle deserves praise for coordinating the film elements with a period- appropriate soundtrack.

Carrie Ferguson-Bellew's scenic design is versatile, undefined, but interesting, not unlike Jason himself.

Although Jason does eventually find some resolution, Davis does not wrap everything neatly in a bow, which in this case is both appropriate and satisfying.

Just as in life, some things are never wholly resolved; some secrets remain, maybe forever, a facet of reality we all must accept if we are to get on with life.