Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Snapshots"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


by Cynthia Mercali
Directed by Nerissa Aschoff

Stage Manager Sanjay Chaudhry

Carol..........Nerissa Aschoff
Sherry.............Juliet Bowler
Hollis..............Nada Guirgis

To be relevant, this review must be readable by dawn Saturday, 10 July; otherwise, the ReveScape Company will believe I have once again seen one of their shows (as I did "Love Is Murder") and decided it was un-reviewably bad ... and that is Not true of "Snapshots" at all. Instead of a big, trivial many-roled sow's-ear of a script, this time they have chosen a dense, intense series of relevant monologues that exploit the strengths of its three female actors while examining the state, the plight and the roles of women in this society. Unfortunately, it will close Saturday night after only two sparsely attended performances. It deserves revival.

Cynthia Mercali's script has three best-friends coming together periodically through life to discuss major themes, and between these threesomes each woman has several monologues defining herself by dealing with unique problems. Pre-highschool, the three are choosing which personal heart-throbs they'd like to marry, while later they find that two or three kids --- or even just one --- forces them to be "ordinary" ... just like their Moms! Another twist of the kaleidoscope and they wonder why the "really old" women they are dangerously close to becoming are so invisible, and where do they really go all the time? Their final colloquy is while all three --- after a maybe fatal car accident --- hover, wondering whether to go through the tunnel to the unknown or to go back to life, changed by their out-of-body experiences.

Nerissa Aschoff (who both acts and directs) has elected to play the clear-eyed sceptic who can criticize runaway romanticism, but gets little joy out of the life she criticizes. Her problem is trying to live a life she knows is flawed, and this is best illustrated in her interior monologue as a soccer-hating soccer-mom trying to cheer on her inadequate kid while feeling the critical stares of a herd of more with-it, more bovine mothers. She embodied ambivalence perfectly.

Juliet Bowler takes on the solidly accepting role as willing wife and mother always dealing with a weight problem. She deals satirically with women's lot as "Sherah, Keeper of The Socks" then directly in an angry admission that over-eating is her emotional attempt to compensate for being fat. Her self-critical stance makes her start out one-down --- grumpily choosing to marry a Dick Van Dyke rather than a Sean Connery.

Nada Guirgis is the romantic, always insisting that, right now, she will transform herself into her ideal. She is the misty-eyed seeker eager for what she expects will be the joys of life. Her transitional monologue is a critique of the politically militant passive-resisters of the '60s who didn't realize how easy it would be to stop the war if they could simply hold a pistol to Richard Nixon's head.

As individuals and as ensemble this trio is excellent. The bare Actors' Workshop stage with minimal props concentrates attention on the individuals; the little details in seemingly disjointed monologues add up to build the characters, and they resonate with the feminist experience of the past half-decade.

And, as a company, you've come a long way, ladies.
ReveScape's first production "Love is Murder" (which Nerissa Aschoff also directed) was a sprawlingly silly send-up of the Barbara Cartland style of romance-fiction writers. The characters were so cardboard that the only acting style possible was external melodramatic posturing. It was a play designed for stage-struck amateurs.

"Snapshots" though is a whole different view of women. Only two of the original company members survive here, but through the intense inner examination such a show requires they have grown immensely. Everything about this production is improved, all the actresses are comfortably themselves on stage, speaking directly and honestly to one another, or to the audience.

The new company member, Juliet Bowler, is the only one with thorough training and extensive stage experience, and it shows. She knows how to project both her voice and her passions --- but her sisters onstage held their own. They became an ensemble, and Nerissa Aschoff as an intelligent director could smooth their work into a coherent whole. The two young actresses learned a lot between their two productions, about reading lines and about making characters live. What they might add now is technique. Nada Guirgis for instance speaks from her shoulders rather than her diaphragm, and rises to a charming squeek when trying to increase volume. And when Nerissa Aschoff gets thoughtfully quiet her voice doesn't fill even the small Actors' Workshop auditorium. Six months of breath-control exercises would help each of them enormously --- unless of course they'd prefer to do television or films rather than acting on the stage.

Tonight will be your last chance to see ReveScape do "Snapshots".


"Snapshots" (9 & 10 July)
Actors' Workshop, 40 Boylston Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide