You make a lot of discoveries the first month you're in a new place: the sticky door you have to doublecheck, the key you have to jiggle to turn the deadbolt, and the faucet you have to set in a certain position so it doesn't drip.
Michelle and Josh Wells, the directors of Sonorous Road Productions, were still making such discoveries up to and after the curtain time of the June 3 debut production in their theater and film studio's beautiful new space on Hillsborough Street, Bare Theatre's EverScape, Allan Maule's 2016 online gaming drama.
After signing a lease on the Royal Bakery building in February, the Wells led a small army of designers, contractors, and volunteers on a dead run to overhaul the former Edible Art Bakery space in time for its opening.
The intimate, ninety-five-seat black box theater is noticeably wider than the former Oberlin Road site, which Sonorous Road left after N.C. State bought its building. Its new upholstered seats are a comfortable upgrade from the old plastic chairs. The spacious lobby, which the Wells want to make an "artists' hangout," is already an inviting place; its cozy nooks and crannies have couches and chairs, tables, bookshelves, and a bar that will soon sell coffee, snacks, and alcoholic beverages. An even cozier thirty-seat theater and a film studio stand beyond an art deco-influenced box office area.
Still, the company was putting the finishing touches on—and dealing with last-minute glitches from—various parts of its new room on Saturday night. Theatrical drapes only partially blocked external light from the back of the room, and the performance's start was delayed by ten minutes when technicians had to bring out a ladder to reset a frozen dimmer pack above the front row. As the audience chatted, the lighting design made latecomers take a fully illuminated walk of shame to their seats—a bug that Sonorous Road might consider making a feature.
We were much more troubled by the insistent low-frequency thumping from a wedding d.j. at the banquet center next door, which intruded on the first half of the production. Sonorous Road spent thousands of dollars constructing soundproof walls to prevent such interference. But, at the end of the evening, a visibly relieved technician advised us that the d.j.'s signal had been picked up and transmitted through the theater's own subwoofers rather than bleeding through the walls.
Unsurprisingly, the returning cast from last October's production of EverScape seemed entirely at home in their roles as a group of millennials seeking escape from humdrum lives in the world of online games. Maule's meditations on the trials of early adulthood seemed pithier when the author spoke them himself, as the enigmatic coder, Foster. Sean Brosnahan had ripened in the role of the compassionate Devo. Chris Hinton sharpened the edges of the anarchic Gil. If all the shows to follow have this much integrity, the new Sonorous Road has a bright path ahead.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Music to Our Ears"