Stars, Satellites and the Ferris Wheel of Love: BRIGHT HALF LIFE, at Manbites

brighthalflife-2656

Women in love: JoRose (Vicky) and Tamara Kissane (Erica), in Tanya Barfield’s BRIGHT HALF LIFE, as directed by Jules Odendahl-James. At Manbites Dog Theater through March 4, 2017. Photo: Alex Maness.

Manbites Dog Theater opened a delightfully challenging and touchingly intimate recent play on February 17.  Tanya Barfield‘s Bright Half Life, which sketches nearly 50 years of love between Vicky and Erica, was first produced in 2015; this is the regional premiere. The poetic script is directed with delicately applied force by Jules Odendahl-James, who knows just when to slow down for the script’s switchbacks, and when to power out of its curves. She and the two actors, Tamara Kissane and JoRose, have made a beautiful piece of theatre.

Vicky and Erica’s story dances through time, the many short vignettes taking increased meaning through added context, like a jigsaw puzzle coming together. Certain scenes or lines repeat, with tiny variations, like all those pieces of blue sky. Essential differences in the Vicky’s and Erica’s personalities and characters are wonderfully conveyed through metaphors and astronomical references, but the practical differences in their situations play out bluntly. Kissane and JoRose ride the  waveforms and cycles of long-time love with breathtaking honesty.

Even though many of the “actions” in this 75 minute work “take place” in varied locales, watching Erica and Vicky talk and remember and have adventures and break up and get married and have fights and have children and break up and rediscover and get divorced and remember again the electric love and realize that the half-life of their star still shines and that the jumping out of airplanes and the flying of kites and and the riding of Ferris wheels are still theirs forever– all that makes it feel much more as if it takes place in a silk and velvet boudoir. One almost feels a voyeur, a secret watcher, of the very private lives of these vividly imagined women. The deliciously bifurcated experience of a play–losing oneself in it/being aware of its separateness from one–is intensified by the same dynamic playing out in these lovers’ lives, underscoring that the erotic energies which drive the love engine are very similar to those that drive artful performance.

The essential duality of a couple in love was nicely echoed in the effective set design by Sonya Leigh Drum. Using no more than a raised platform with a ramp on one end, steps in the middle and an L on the other end, along with a lot of small lamps, she made a place set apart, the women’s private terrain–yet an arrangement flexible enough to be used for office work, mattress testing, skydiving and all the rest of life. Drum also designed the costumes. Joseph Amodei’s sound mix was, on opening night, kept to such low levels that perhaps it would have been better turned off, but this may have been an attempt to further deepen the feeling of intimacy, and an effort not to drown the women, who sometimes spoke very softly. Jenni Mann Becker’s lighting goes over-bright at times, but generally is very effective at amplifying the emotional tones of the various scenes–which means it changes often, enriching the visuals.

This is a rather special production, very tightly put together, with particularly fine acting. Kissane is luminous; JoRose, radiant. Highly recommended. Through March 4.

brighthalflife-2680

JoRose as Vicky, and Tamara Kissane as Erica, in Tanya Barfield’s BRIGHT HALF LIFE, playing at Manbites Dog Theater through March 4, 2017. Photo: Alex Maness.

 

Advertisements

Black Ops Probes for Elusive Truth in The Typographer’s Dream, at Manbites

typog03

The Typographer’s Dream, by Adam Bock, plays at Manbites in a joint production with Black Ops, through Dec. 17, 2016. With Jessica Flemming as the Typographer (note type on her shirt), JoRose as the Geographer, and Lazarus Simmons as the Stenographer. Directed by JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell. Photo: Alan Dehmer.

 

An interesting, quirky play by Adam Bock previewed Dec. 1 at Manbites Dog Theater, which is producing The Typographer’s Dream jointly with the cleverly named Black Ops Theatre. The 70-minute one-act is a thinking person’s pleasure.

From my review published on cvnc.org:

It has been a year of sad attrition in the local theatre world. We’ve lost Deep Dish in Chapel Hill; Common Ground in Durham will close in a few weeks; and for no apparent reason, the Carrboro ArtsCenter did away with its theater program, which Jeri Lynn Schulke had made better than ever. But always, art rises to refill the vacuum. The young company Black Ops Theatre, led by artistic director JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, is seizing the moment. Holloway-Burrell is on a big mission to challenge “preconceived notions (conscious and otherwise) on what Black Theatre should look like.” She’s after “opportunity for Black artists,” but her clarion call will resonate in anyone who believes in art: “Black Ops… is theatre without boundaries; we adhere to no creative restrictions or expectations.” Her declarations hark back to bold days of Everyman Company and People’s Art Action in the 1970s. To the barricades, comrades—in this case, seats in your local art theatre.

In Durham, that’s Manbites Dog Theater, still kicking ass and taking names after 30 years….

Read the full review here. Get tickets here.

typog06

JoRose as the Geographer, with Jessica Flemming and Lazarus Simmons.  Black Ops at Manbites, through Dec. 17. Photo: Alan Dehmer.

typog08

The Stenographer (Lazarus Simmons) explains the tools of his trade. Photo: Alan Dehmer.

 

 

 

 

 

David Cecelski

New writing, collected essays, latest discoveries

Piedmont Trails

Genealogy and History in North Carolina and Beyond

Piedmont Laureate

Promoting awareness and heightened appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont Region

Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" -- Director's Blog

a countdown to the next performance, March 28-31, 2019

North Carolina Preservation Consortium

Preserving tangible and intangible heritage of enduring value

The Orange County Citizen

• Proudly Serving Orange County North Carolina Since 2018 •

Bamboo Wind

Video Poems, Dance, Sculpture & Photography

mhdekm

A topnotch WordPress.com site

peter harris, tapestryweaver

TAPestry And DESIgn

Backstrap Weaving

My weaving , my indigenous teachers, my inspiration, tutorials and more........

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Not At Home In It

collections/connections

inkled pink

warp, weave, be happy!

Peggy Osterkamp's Weaving Blog

"Weaving should be fun!"

SHUTTLE WORKS STUDIO

Studio Life of a Weaver, Spinner, Dyer

This Day in North Carolina History

The people and places of the Tar Heel state day by day.

Linda Frye Burnham

Writer and poet

The Upstager

All the world's an upstage.

Literary Life in Italy

Looking at Italy through literature

%d bloggers like this: