Marriage is made of bluffs and feints, ruses to blame partners for our sins.
I wanted my son to know he was loved, to know he was not alone. That I was with him. And yet, he was alone. I was alone. I am alone.
The unison of Liz Stanton’s riveting performance, Peter Grandbois’ poetic writing and a superior presentation, all make the solo play, The Woman Who Was Me, a dreamy and haunting spectacle.
With her cheery voice, fearless physicality, flowing mane of curly hair, wide eyes and unabashed mature physique, Ms. Stanton commands the stage for 75-minutes. Expressively dancing, singing and talking out loud, Stanton beautifully brings to life the character of Lanie as she shares her innermost thoughts and desires.
She’s a middle-aged Midwestern teacher and writer married to a listless travel agent, and they have a seven-year-old son. The marriage and Lanie’s outlook have become stagnant. One day, a strange man in her garden calls her name, kisses her and runs away. This jolts her into self-reflection and action.
Mr. Grandbois’ engrossing scenario is in the vein of such feminist fantastical works as Diary of a Mad Housewife and Up the Sandbox. An expedition to a salsa dance club, buying a puppy from gypsies behind a Home Depot, watching Clash of The Titans on television with her son and a trip to the zoo are rendered with exquisite literary detail that’s simultaneously comic and moving. Looking into an old mirror becomes a Proustian reverie of Lanie’s recollections of her dead grandmother.
Grandbois offers an engaging character study that explores that age-old question, “what’s it all about?” Part of that is sex, and it’s frankly depicted without shock value as Lanie goes on a picaresque journey of discovery.
Director Jeremy Williams’ staging is a gorgeous blend of stark emotionalism, dynamically choreographed movement and visual magnificence.
The loft playing area is all white, and scenic designer WT McRae has an outdoor clothesline center stage. At one point Lanie is shrouded in a sheet as she speaks like a Beckett heroine. Her office consists of a white table and a chair. There’s a white chest on the floor that’s effectively utilized. Mr. McRae’s simple but artful creations perfectly frame the events.
Jolting hues of blue, orange and red all alternating with crisp brightness are the recurring features of Kate Jaworski’s striking lighting design.
There’s a cool soundtrack of jazzy vocals and instrumentals that are well modulated and atmospherically accompany the performance.
A brief sequence set in a forest is moodily represented by Victoria Pike’s proficient video and projection design.
Lanie’s basic outfit of white slacks, a gray tank top and a white blazer are the inspired garments of Natalie Loveland’s harmonious costume design.
Following the performance, there is an intermission, and then Stanton is joined on stage by a distinguished female guest to have a conversation with audience participation about “the many choices women make throughout life.”
Filled with psychological insights, arresting imagery and fierce acting, The Woman Who Was Me is a compelling and highly theatrical confessional.
The Woman Who Was Me (through June 11, 2017)
TheaterLab Shares & Convergences Theatre Collective
TheaterLab, 357 West 36th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.convergencescollective.org
Running time: 75 minutes followed by one intermission and an audience talkback