A Different Woman
Veronica Russell performed this one-woman piece at the NY Fringe Festival, to good review. Back in her hometown though, Katrina was blowing audiences away. Very few New Orleanians knew of Veronica's New York success. Those who do know, have waited with anticipation for Veronica's homecoming. A Different Woman, 30 Years of a Texas Girlhood, is strong material, performed with confidence.
As a storyteller, Veronica develops distinct voices for her various characters. She inhabits her entire space, moving continuously. At times her gestures did seem rehearsed, and the pacing was off. At hour one, I wondered why we were still in her character's childhood. But throughout, the original author's own cranky-wise voice speaks clearly through the material.
Lieutenant of Inishmore
Last week, a man in line at another theater warned me that by the end of Inishmore, the entire stage is covered in blood. He's right. Everybody and everything, a gleeful bloodbath such as I've never seen on a stage. During intermission I noticed the metal rail at the edge of the stage to catch the run-off.
This laugh-out-loud dark comedy by Martin McDonough, an Irish hunk of a playwright who's a current Broadway darling, makes a statement about senseless violence through senseless violence. That doesn't usually work for me. But I laughed out loud.
Also written by Martin McDonough, this play is slower-paced, moodier, and genuinely spooky.
Excellent set, if for no other reason than that it's different. Kudos to handsome carpenter, Chad Talkington, and kudos also to him or whoever else is responsible for the German Expressionistic design.
Brian Belu plays fear and anxiety well. He fades during the storytelling. I auditioned for his role, banking on my own storytelling ability. So of course I'm judging him from that particular prejudice. In storytelling, he did not seem to love his words, which are supposedly his character's own writing. He misses cadences, and needs to project. But there's no doubt Brian Belu's a fine actor, and easily passes as Leon Contrevesprie's smarter brother.
There is a lot to like, but some things made me wince. Both the writing and the acting, both good and wincy. There are sparks of life, some solid scene-work, a lot of promise. The soliloquy at the end is Cobalt Blue's clearest appeal to the emotions of post-Katrina New Orleans, a message of sorrow, outrage, yearning, and a prayer for healing. Delivered from the lip of the stage under a single spotlight, it was actor Shannon Williams' shining moment. He was up to it.
At times however, the production was histrionic, a criticism I fear for my own writing, so I don't use it lightly. The over-the-topness of Act 1's situation combined with the over-the-topness of the lead actor (who plays anger in only one volume: rage). I think Williams is a better comedic actor, especially in the opening of Act 2. I could see him do sitcom.
Glenn Meche lit up the stage. Maybe it was my fondness for him, his bright eyes, or the red tie, but the play really began for me when Glenn entered, the mysterious stranger ala the Grim Reaper (or perhaps the voodoo deity Gedde.) Glenn and Lisa Davis were object lessons for the other actors on natural delivery, being in the moment, restraint, and nuance.