Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Unaccustomed to My Name"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark

"Unaccustomed to My Name"

Written and Performed
by Marta Rainer
Directed by Angela Peterson

As introduction, commenting on the poem she's just read, Marta Rainer's central character Sophie Petrowski comments "Akhmatova calls this dreading look forward 'Death'! Why, I wonder do I call it College Graduation?!? And why am I spending my life, fully clothed, in a bathtub?"
No one ever suggested late-adolescence could be easy, right?

The bathtub's indicated by a handful of boxes, and Rainer becomes all characters. A Russian Literature Major whose Russian is halting and terrible ("But my English-with-a-Russian-Accent is dynamite!") Sophie repeatedly yanks on a coldly honest light to stare into the mirror (the audience), taking stock, and re-stock, of her ingrown personality. She is her worried Polish mother, pontificating with two peremptory fingers and bending to shout through the bathroom keyhole. She is best-friend Lily who demands Sophie as her wedding's Maid of Honor. She is her Russian professor's answering-machine, and a guy with a great tush who turns out to be a yahoo highschool classmate boorishly enjoying his first divorce and on the make.

And finally, Sophie creates a new role for herself: Sonya Petrovna, from Siberia, livink last two years here in Varsaw, Nyew York, and sneerfully disdaining every curious proto-date in all the dating-bars from Warsaw to Buffalo --- unfortunately including the litt. teacher from U of B who might have liked and understood Sophie --- if he hadn't met Sonia first.

Rainer whirls herself from one character to another, beginning in bathrobe and bare feet, her arms overflowing with the precious books that give her the only "Real" life she wants, although it means spending her life in a library, or a bathtub, instead of a marriage or a meaningful job. The self-satire is recognizable to anyone who has survived youth, witty, only slightly exaggerated, and so full of life the running time seems surprisingly short. In her solo show, Marta Rainer is never really alone on Wellesley's stage.

( a k a larry stark )

"Unaccustomed to My Name" (12 - 28 January)
Ruth Nagle Jones Theatre, Alumnae Hall, Wellesley College, WELLESLEY MA

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