review: room

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Room

Based on the writings of  Virginia Woolf, adapted by Jocelyn Clark
Directed by Anne Bogart
Featuring Ellen Lauren

Women’s Project & SITI Company at Julia Miles Theater 424 West 55th Street
March 12, 2011  — March 27, 2011
production web site:  http://www.womensproject.org/on_our_stage.htm

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
March 15, 2011

Ellen Lauren. Image: Women's Project.

As we assemble in the audience and at curtain up, we are an audience at the Julia Miles Theater and we are an audience for the original lecture to a woman’s college by Virigina Woolf that she edited into the essay A Room of One’s Own. Woolf (Ellen Lauren) delivers portions of that particular lecture then moves, cued by sound and lighting shifts, into quotations from sections of memoir and other writings and returns, by journey’s end, to that same lecture.  The liberal arts majors among audience members might wonder as the monologues proceed: was that from The Waves or To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway or Moments of Being or one of the diary volumes?  (And yes, these and other Woolf tomes adorn my library shelves.)  On a bare stage save an arm chair, Lauren as Woolf stands stock still then careens with physically and visually coded movements and moments through this pastische of feeling and intellect assembled by adapter Jocelyn Clark.  It is unclear to me whether those not familiar with a broad swath of Woolf’s work will engage fully with this experience.  This long confirmed Woolf reader and admirer found this piece of theatre a delight.

Actress Lauren has developed with director Anne Bogart a physical language of symbolic gestures and movements that are incorporated throughout Room to illustrate and punctuate and animate and choreograph and perhaps even comment upon Woolf’s words.  I learn in play resources available on line (http://www.womensproject.org/room_lauren.html) that the collaborators developed some  26 “physical structures” .  These gestures and physicality feel forced at the beginning of this 80 minute experience, then the logic gradually accumulates and, like learning sign language through illustration, you realize general concepts are indeed represented by particular small and large physical movements.  And the words flow.

Scenic design by Neil Patel (white scrim, bare floors, some surprises occasionally illuminated behind) seamlessly works with the lighting design by Christopher Akerlind (shadows and spotlights and rear lights). “Soundscape” by Darron L. West ranges from total silence to simple bells to waves — never imposing.  All in support of Woolf’s words.

© Martha Wade Steketee (March 16, 2011)

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