Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Amazon/Haiku"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark


Two One-Act Plays
Directed by Victoria Marsh

Lighting Design by Marc Olivere
Sound Design by Matt Otto
Set Design by Lisa Pegnato
Stage Manager Amy Weissenstein

"Sailing Down The Amazon"

by Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro

Rima...June Lewin


by Kate Snodgrass

Nell.........June Lewin
Louise...Kippy Goldfarb
Billie....Emily Sinagra

Beyond the fact that this is a pair of excellent plays well and provocatively acted by Equity Professionals, there are other, and to my mind more compelling reasons to find them important.
Like, for instance, the fact that the playwrights are both women --- as is the director and half the backstage crew --- and they are both playwrights who live and write right here in Boston. The subjects of both plays grow out of women's lives, and two of the three actresses here are Equity members donating their time and perhaps even money to mount An Equity Members' Project Code Production. In other words, no Artistic Director chose to these plays --- instead the actresses themselves did. And the results are excellent.

Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro's "Sailing Down The Amazon" is a not so simple dramatic monologue. June Lewin plays an actress at age 70 --- a "diva" actually, talking to an acquaintance invisible on the next deck-chair, while her equally invisible husband sleeps in one on her other side. It's shortly before midnight on the last night of the century, the woman has flashes of Alzheimer's, and she's been handed roses sent by the actor she's played opposite so often he might be an old lover --- more that than her jealous hubby, certainly.

The play is full of subtle signposts. One or two repetitions, for instance, slip by looking as though the performer is repeating herself, before the diagnosis of Alzheimer's is revealed. There is even a suggestion that hubby may have tried to drown himself rather than watch his wife drift slowly down a river of no return.

When June Lewin reappears in Kate Snodgrass' "Haiku" she becomes the ageing mother of a severely autistic grown daughter. Kippy Goldfarb plays this limping, distracted, echolalia- beset woman who wears a helmet because she tends to beat her mis-firing brain when frustrated. The occasion is a visit by the "normal" daughter, played by Emily Sinagra. As in more and more families these days, Mother faces the physical decay of her own ageing, and hopes sister can replace her as a care-giver, though sis would prefer to go the hospital route.

Here several ambiguities resonate through the play. Mother claims that, under the mad behavior, her "defective" daughter is an intelligent, feeling person --- one who bursts out with perfect, pertinent 17-syllable haiku at unexpected intervals. Is this fact, or motherly delusion? Even at play's end, this remains un-resolved.

Two or three times during the visit, the daughters slip suddenly into flashback, showing the love/hate cruelties that children can hurl at one another. These slips in time seem naturally organic, and help define the conflict. Marc Olivere's lights and designer Lisa Pegnato's set create an expressively claustrophobic set, while a white Japanese sketch of a cherry-blossom spray appears and disappears against the pale blue cyclorama.

Perhaps these excellent theatrical workmen (Director Victorial Marsh has directed several outstanding productions for Company One, among others) have, despite their Equity credits, decided to put their talents and experiences to work because they understand the problems facing "women of a certain age" in our society. One of those problems is finding parts and productions that offer meaningful artistic opportunities. If that's true, the Equity Members' Project Code Productions are a godsend, well worth their attention, and yours.

NOTE: The plays close at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre this Friday, but will re-appear at Gloucester's West End Theatre for three more performances 26 - 28 January.
See them if you possibly can!

( a k a larry stark )

"Sailing Down The Amazon" & "Haiku"
@ Boston Playwrights' Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, BOSTON MA (5 - 20 January)
1 (617)661-7930
@ West End Theatre, 1 Washington Street, GLOUCESTER, MA (26 - 28 January)

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide