Saw this show’s opening performance yesterday afternoon. Directed by Kali Kardas with an all female cast which includes BreAnna Manassa, Ellie Smith, Katherine Otten, Kathie O’Brien, and Brandi Douglas. It’s the 1990’s in New York City when two young women meet for the first time and forge a friendship which eventually blossoms into the beginning of something more. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time brings about an assault changing both of the women’s lives forever.
I have not read the play but based on what I experienced the talented women yesterday, the playwright–Diana Son–only scratched the surface with this story. The story is both tragic and lovely in its awkwardness but doesn’t reach the depths of what these two women would’ve experienced in real life.
BreAnna as Callie and Ellie Smith as Sarah do well as the two young women realizing their relationship goes beyond friendship with awkward moments; however, being Reader’s Theatre with so few rehearsals and limited props/costumes limits them to the basics. This play needs a bit more than that to really convey who these young women are.
Katherine Otten plays all three male characters in the play. She has great stage presence as well as a great voice for the male tone. With more time in each character, I feel like she could’ve really dug deeper to make these guys more distinct from one another. The detective was appropriately direct condescending while George was both sweet and sexist at the same time. The male character I had a problem with was Patrick but it could’ve been due to the playwright’s choice to make him supportive and understanding when I would’ve preferred him to be challenging, accusatory, and pissed off.
Kathie O’Brien plays Mrs. Winsley, the lady who calls 911 and the nurse. Kathie has acting range for sure but I feel like she didn’t get into how ugly Mrs. Winsley really is. I mean, yeah she calls the cops but a part of me thinks the women deserved what they got. I only caught a glimpse of this dark side and wanted more ugly.
Brandi Douglas played the narrator which worked very well in this format. I’m not sure if the script is written this way but her role part another layer and element to the story which I liked very much. She has been fun to watch this part year at the Majestic as she expands her character base.
As for the play, it time travels between the past and present throughout which was difficult for my mom to track at times. I often wonder when watching these types of play structure what if the story would have as much impact told chronologically. I think this story would hold.
As for the story, I don’t want Sarah’s parents and Patrick to be so understanding of Callie and Sarah. I want them to be pissed. Maybe it’s the obvious choice but in this case it would make sense. Pissed because she left St Louis for a teaching job in the Bronx and living in an unsafe neighborhood. Pissed she fell in love with a woman who takes her for a walk through a dangerous park at 4 am. Pissed at the fact there is nothing they can do but wait to see if she comes out of the coma. Pissed that Callie is even allowed to be at the hospital at all. This would have given the story a missing dynamic of what these women may have dealt with. It touches briefly but doesn’t go where it should to make the audience feel how hard and dangerous it was—and still is—to be non-hetero in this world. It wants to open people’s minds and hearts through tragedy but with kids gloves when a sucker punch would have made the point and landed. As for Callie, I know these two women are friends who have literally crossed the line into a romantic relationship but does she truly LOVE Sarah that much for the ending to work? I’m not sure. Some scenes exploring this would have made the play more relevant regardless of same sex or opposite sex relationships. You’re barely dating and then decide to commit your life to taking care of someone? I’m not buying it with Callie’s dating history. But that’s me.
Kali Kardas did well choosing this play to bring to Reader’s Theatre. I spoke to her after the show and asked about using a female to play the male roles. Frankly, no guys showed for the audition. The guy she asked couldn’t do it. I won’t name names 🙂 She saw it as a blessing thinking it might have been “gross” to have the male energy in the play. I agreed with her at the time but as my husband drove us away from the theatre and we talked about the play, I changed my mind. Maybe the play needs the male energy to drive home the shallowness, sexism, and judgement the male characters brought to the story. Maybe some male energy would have made us uncomfortable and “gross”; but, if real empathy and change is going to come about—don’t we have to be uncomfortable?
What do you think? You have two chances to see this play today. Get your tickets here: https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=105057