Dancing Lessons is hilarious, touching, life affirming, & brilliantly honest!

Sharon Rietkerk & Craig Marker

Photo Credit: Alessandra Mello /  info@mellophoto.com

The Center Repertory Theater Company under the astute management of Scott Denison, general manager, and Michael Butler, its artistic director, has never chosen to stand still, or to just be satisfied with its highly claimed and many successes. Each production, each season provides us with greater reason to become seasonal attendees in this beautiful, three theater venue in the heart of Walnut Creek. This past week a thoroughly delightful romantic comedy, Dancing Lessons, has opened its heart in this venue to those of us in need of diversion from the horrific news that greets us far too often these days.

Ever Montgomery (Craig Marker), a young man and professor of environmental science, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, has become desperate in seeking a solution to help him avoid embarrassment at an upcoming awards dinner in his honor, a ceremony that will be occurring within just a few days. One of his constant challenges with autism is that it always presents him with a painfully traumatic psychosomatic aversion to physical connections with other people. Knowing full well that the award ceremony will include dinner and dancing, he finds himself overwhelmed with great consternation that he will probably be expected to dance at the request of attendees at the party. Intellectually, he reasons that if he can learn enough about dancing, which he has never done in his life, he might be able to survive his overwhelming expectation of disaster.

Ever is aware that there is another tenant in his building, a Broadway dancer, Senga Quinn (Sharon Rietkerk), and proceeds nervously to implore her to provide him with a dancing lesson that he knows will be challenging to both of them, explaining to her that that he is afflicted with Asperger’s Symptom, an autism disorder. When he discovers that she has recently experienced a career challenging leg injury, he explains that all he needs is for her to show him some very simple dance steps and in exchange for that, he is willing to pay her an exorbitant fee for a one-hour lesson. Reluctantly, she acquiesces, as it is too large an amount to turn down, especially when she seriously needs the income. When she suggests slow dancing with a partner, which she can handle with her impairment, he immediately freaks out and explains that he simply cannot touch anyone! The audience subsequently experiences one of the most outrageously hilarious dance lessons ever!

What is Asperger syndrome? It is a sub classification of autism, a syndrome afflicting individuals that are often highly functioning, can be quite intelligent, perhaps even genius, but who also suffer from the related shortcomings of the autism disorder, such as repetitive behaviors and problems with speech and nonverbal communication. Further, they are often highly opinionated, can have amazing vocabularies, are easily upset by changes in routine, and usually prefer to be alone. Further, they often have strange and strong reactions to sensory stimuli (smells, sounds, textures, lights and tastes), and struggle with personal relationships. Not exactly the best formula for engaging with a person of the opposite sex in a dancing lesson.

This humorous, or perhaps I should say hilarious, intersection of two desperate human beings, provides a delightful evening, a touching evening, a love-filled evening, a brutally honest evening, that I almost wished would not end. Smartly written with no intermission, this 90 minute production it is truly a wonderful experience and one that you should not miss! Under the skillful direction of Joy Carlin, the very clever set design of Kent Dorsey, terrific costume design by Brooke Jennings, Dancing Lessons delivers a punch, a terrific local professional production. It continues Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm, with Sunday performances at 2:30 pm now through Saturday, November 17th in the Margaret Lesher Theater located in the Lesher Center for the Arts at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. Tickets range between $34 and $56 each and can be secured by purchasing them at the Lesher Center for the Arts box office, at the Downtown Walnut Creek Library or by calling (925) 943 SHOW (7469). This is so good that I would love to see it again and take my friends!

About the Author

Charles JarrettTheater reviewer for the Rossmoor News for 29 years, a professional theatrical photographer (Megaline Photographic Design - Alamo, CA) and news paper reporter for 15 years, currently with the Orinda News as a staff photographer and reporter.View all posts by Charles Jarrett →