Monday, October 8, 2018

Margin Notes: The Other, Other Woman

Laura Iris Hill as Mother Abbess. Photo by Duncan Pflaster.

Seen on: Thursday, 10/04/18.
My grade: B+

Plot and Background
A developmental reading by Turn to Flesh Productions of Emily C. A. Snyder's new verse play about polyamory and love-crossed souls in a small town in 18th century France.

Disclosure, and
What I Knew Beforehand
I've seen several of my friend Emily's verse plays at this point, so knew we'd be in capable hands, but I had avoided a plot synopsis so I could go in cold. (Continuing disclosure: Not only am I friends with auteur Snyder, I'm also friends with several of the cast members)


Play: As this was a developmental reading (albeit an extremely polished one) and therefore a work in progress, I thought I would break down my feedback into what worked for me, and what I think could use more work or examination.

What works: Snyder's sparkling wit balanced with sillier humors--she's so clearly happily in her wheelhouse in this medium, and it's a pleasure to witness. The scenes flow swiftly and easily around each other, and the staging is poetic and clear. The polish and clarity of every moment belie all assurances that this is merely a workshop or reading. An able use of the ensemble as storytellers, witnesses, symbols, and people dealing with trying times. An abundance of female roles, of all stripes. When the rhyming couplets break apart into simple and honest speech, the audience takes a collective breath and holds it. The ache of love unexpressed and inexpressible.

What could use some examination: The occasional comic nods to the constraints of rhyming couplets--say, forcing a word into mispronunciation in order to make the rhyme perfect--would land more strongly if there weren't a number of slant rhymes elsewhere. Although the first act seems to champion polyamory, I was a bit disappointed to see that the second act paired nearly everyone off (except the queer characters), rejecting polyamory as an unsustainable option (indeed, Madame Evolette is soundly chastised by her husband Monsieur Beaudemonde for honoring their marriage contract so faithfully by indulging in countless sexual encounters but giving her heart to no one else). I felt uncomfortable watching what seemed like callous treatment of an emotionally unstable woman (played, in the first half, for laughs) and her abusive behavior toward her husband, and even more uncomfortable when that couple makes some fairly ugly choices which they know will make neither of them happy (choices which honestly seemed made in order to achieve a specific end in the plot, rather than following the characters on a journey of growth and change). I was disappointed that, with so many strong, varied, and interesting women portrayed in the piece, their lives all still seem entirely governed by the choices of the two male foils in the narrative, Beaudemonde and Valentine.

There's beautiful potential in this piece, piercing heartache and hilarity both.

Cast: Putting aside a grab-bag approach to accents and a lack of agreement on how to pronounce certain names, this ensemble is, top to bottom, terrific. The company of actors all bring their A game, displaying an easy mastery of verse, an earnest engagement with the heart, and an eagerness of spirit for the absurdity of existence. I couldn't find a weak link, but I'll quickly list out my standouts: Abby Wilde as Princess Genevieve, always adept at balancing awkwardness with poetry; Laura Iris Hill, pitch perfect as the ruddy faced and ruddy humored Mother Abbess; Joe Raik, endearing and hilarious as the put upon puppy-eyed Impetueux; Keith Caram as the tortured Valentine; and Jordan Cobb as the silver-tongued and wily Gravide.


Running: Now playing at El Barrio Art Space (Turn to Flesh Productions) - Opening: October 4, 2018. Closing: October 13, 2018.
Category: verse play
Length: 2 hours, 45 minutes, including intermission.

Creative Team

Playwright: Emily C. A. Snyder
Director: Emily C. A. Snyder
Cast: Abby Wilde, Keith Caram, Amanda Roberts, Sigmond Varga, Laura Iris Hill, Jordan Cobb, Joe Raik, Laurel Andersen, Emily Sarah Cohn, Chris Rivera, Justy Kosek, Bridget Randolph, Regina Renee Russell.

Regina Renee Russell, Chris Rivera, Justy Kosek, Amanda Roberts, Joe Raik,
and Bridget Randolph. Photo by Duncan Pflaster.

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