We began last night in the company of two neighbors who have lived for several years--like us---in this community. Like most folks, we live in a community of a few hundred folks, but we are "strangers" to one another, not interacting except at an occasional event in the neighborhood.We'd talked about getting together, and going to see some theatre(we all thought immediately of Actor's Express), and finally, got around to it. They drove, and we arrived a bit early at Actor's Express for "Becky Shaw". I was expecting a good show, because Actor's Express always delivers.
But I didn't get a good show....
I was present for an absolutely brilliant show.
Scenic Designer Kat Conley's set of colorful, geometric, sliding panels and series of entranceways and doors, revolve and morph into several different locations as diverse as a lobby, a cafe', several bedrooms, a living room, etc...they are a great mirror for the relationships which play out with shifting motivations, and desires, and which play with our notions of what those relationships are.
Is the couple we're seeing, married? Dating? Brother and sister? All of the above?
In less capable hands, the humor that is inherent in shifting identities, and Shakespearean-like shifting loyalties, might not hit the mark.
But lucky for us, Director-Extraordinaire, Freddie Ashley,is at the helm, and the direction is as fluid and crisp as the dialogue that won playwright Gina Gionfriddo a Pulitzer nomination.
Whether dodging questions from Suzanna(Jill Hames)or tossing out his own fast-ball curves, Max (Andrew Benator)is transcendant in the role of a bitter good guy, whose quick wit manages to be punctuated by moments of tender vulnerability. Jill Hames shines when engaged in the verbal fencing these two perform, throughout.Her interpretation of Suzanna is quite simply, lovely: it would've been easier to play her as a shrew(and she has legitimate, shrewish moments), but Hames makes choices for her Suzanna that enlighten us as to who she really is, and she's like most of us: yearning for love--real, true, loyal, eternal love and acceptance.
The statuesque, delightfully giggly Becky Shaw as played by Veronica Duerr, is not so much the blind-date-from-hell you fear, as the wounded sparrow you rescue from predators.Her nearly epileptic nervous laughter works as an exclamation point to nearly every phrase, and her motivations are at once, both nebulous, and crystal-clear.No easy feat for even an older actress, and certainly amazing for so young an actress.
Supporting cast members Kathi Welch, as Suzanna's mother, Susan, and Tony Larkin as Andrew do a fine job of parrying the verbal jabs (and feints)supplied by Max and Suzanna. The dignity and self-awareness with which Susan handles her own debilitating illness is a bright contrast to the self-indulgence seen in the other characters. Tony Larkin's Andrew is more "self-actualized" (to borrow from the Eric Maslow-ian terms of the play)than the others, but his painful, conflicted emotions are evident almost immediately, and serves well the intentions of the playwright. I found myself thinking:
No matter how "good" we are, how good are our intentions? What are our "obligations" to each other? And in our tech-savvy, ultra-connected world(as in this very review, here on a blog, posted at Facebook, etc.), how connected are we to each other, in-person, really?
One way to begin to feel more connected, is, of course, to go see live theatre. Unlike film or television, to exist, theatre--by definition-- REQUIRES our presence.
So on the way home, husband Hansoo, and Christine and Dale and I discussed the play(we all loved the show--though we held differing views on how "prick-ish" one character is)and we discussed our own relationships.
Strangers, no more.
Which brings me to the question Director Freddie Ashley asks in the program,
"How do you treat the strangers at your doorstep?"
If those strangers are your neighbors, why not ask them to join you for a great night out?
And at the risk of sounding like a commercial, make it "Becky Shaw" at Actor's Express.
Please note: Last night was sold out.So, get your tickets soon, because the magic and hilarity of "Becky Shaw" will end on Saturday, Sept. 25th, the last night of the run.