Monday, April 23, 2018

Margin Notes: YOU / EMMA

Valerie Redd as You/Emma, watching a montage of bad boys.
Photo by Samantha Fairfield Walsh.

Seen on: Saturday, 4/21/18.
My grade: A-

Plot and Background
Paz Pardo adapts Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary into a multimedia solo performance which places the audience as the protagonist (hence the title, YOU / EMMA) who must contend with the tragic mundanity that brings Emma Bovary to her ruin. We are reminded just how young Emma is as she enters a loveless marriage, a friendless life, and disappointing affairs, at an age when contemporary young women are leaving home for college. Flaubert himself makes a few cameo appearances to both claim full ownership of Emma while also denying all responsibility for her unhappiness.

What I Knew Beforehand
I'd seen (and reviewed) an earlier production by Wandering Bark, also starring Valerie Redd. And I read a plot summary of Madame Bovary on Wikipedia about half an hour before the show.


Play: "Flaubert doesn't tell us what you dream about that night," our narrator confides to us midway through Paz Pardo's 65 minute exploration of what it is to live Emma Bovary's journey. The play is a giddy mixture of whispered secrets, flights of fantasy, confrontations with a negligent author, and the woeful realization that, with all the possible futures Emma imagines for herself, she's stuck with a lonely reality riddled with irresponsible choices. The actress onstage telling us our story is Emma, and so are we (Flaubert claims he is too, but half an hour later he denies it), stuck in a cage only partly of our own making. It's a rather cynical story, and Pardo doesn't let Flaubert off the hook for it, demanding that Emma be given her due, demanding an answer for why he created her, then abandoned her with no friends, no one to love or to love her, and nothing but her dashed fantasies and rising debts to keep her company.

Cast: Valerie Redd is once again excellent, a quiet huskiness in her voice lending intimacy as she takes us on our journey, touring us through Emma's life. She is an animated vessel and a gifted performer, her eyes alighting with hope that something new will happen, her shoulders slumping with fatigue at the unending boredom of her days. Her Emma demands to be seen, even as her watchful eyes assure us that we, too, are seen.

Design: Bruno-Pierre Houle's set is a delightful glimpse inside Emma's imagination: hanging boxes filled with invitations, letters, and her pet dog, and TV screens overmounted with gilt picture frames, showing the lives Emma imagines, as well as her confrontations with her author. And in the back, a rolling rack of Christina Renee Polhemus's versatile costume pieces. Emma may begin in skinny jeans and a t-shirt which says "DON'T TELL ME TO SMILE," but soon she's covered them with corset and hoop skirt, and her mannequin's white shirt is overlaid with a woolly sweater for Charles, or a hipster scarf or waistcoat for her lovers.


Running: Now playing at IRT Theater (Wandering Bark Theatre Co.) - Opening: April 20, 2018. Closing: April 30, 2018.
Category: one person show
Length: 1 hour, 5 minutes, no intermission.

Creative Team

Playwright: Paz Pardo, inspired by Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary
Conceived and Performed by: Valerie Redd
Director: Devin Brain
Designers: Brad Landers (Choreography), Bruno-Pierre Houle (Set), Christina Renee Polhemus (Costume), Jessica Greenberg (Lighting and Sound), Kate Eminger (Video Design and Direction).

Valerie Redd as You/Emma with her lowing husband, Charles (the mannequin).
Photo by Samantha Fairfield Walsh.

No comments:

Post a Comment