BWW Reviews: VIV! is Entertaining and Insightful
Edge Theatre is presenting Jim Tommaney's VIV! (THE STORY BEHIND THE LEGEND OF Vivien Leigh) at Midtown Art Center. At the top of the 80 minute one act, Robert Strong, is at home in his Greenwich Village apartment and using his Quija Board to summon Cleopatra as played by Vivien Leigh. The actress enters through the front door and uses the opportunity to discuss her life with an avid fan.
Direction by Jim Tommaney keeps the play moving at a fantastic pace. Vivien Leigh is written and played intelligently, likening her life to a caduceus. This metaphor builds the structure of the play showing how her talent, mental illness, and sexual appetite all intermingled in her life. Each element is given ample time for exploration, keeping the audience intrigued as well as entertained.
Starring as Vivien Leigh, Tyrrell Woolbert gives the performance of a lifetime. Reciting Cedric Belfrage's glowing review of Vivien Leigh, "Her charm is matched by rare intelligence," the audience cannot help but realize that Tyrrell Woolbert is also defining her own performance for us. Tyrrell Woolbert modulates her voice and has the presence that one would expect from Vivien Leigh. She adroitly portrays the three themes previously discussed, stirring the audience with an episode of madness, her sexual charms, and rousing monologues about Vivien Leigh's fascinating life. Tyrell Woolbert's character study of Vivien Leigh is simply inspired and vastly engrossing.
James R. Monaghan as Robert Strong deserves praises too. Despite hearing what Tyrrell Woolbert has said countless times, his facial expressions and body language convey that he is hearing the information for the very first time. He doesn't get many lines to say, but delivers the few he has well. His portrayal of Macbeth is a particularly fun and memorable moment in the play, as his facial expressions help make that particular moment priceless.
J. Cameron Cooper's Lighting Design is simplistic. The stage is bathed in tender ambers, creating a realistic light for the setting.
Set Construction by Tommy Tommaney is fully realized. The set looks like a small artists apartment in Greenwich Village; however, it is the old-fashioned work for the view from the window that is most appreciated. The technique reminds the audience of techniques used in films and stagecraft from the era of Vivien Leigh's career.
VIV! (THE STORY BEHIND THE LEGEND OF Vivien Leigh) is as entertaining as it is insightful. Before attending the performance, I did not know a great deal about Vivien Leigh, but I feel that I learned a lot about her, her life, and even people from her life.
VIV! (THE SOTRY BEHIND THE LEGEND OF VIVEN LEIGH) runs at Midtown Art Center at 3414 LaBranch Street through December 16, 2012. For more information and tickets, please visit http://www.edgetheatrehouston.com or call (832) 894 – 1843.
All photos courtesy of Edge Theatre.
Tyrrell Woolbert. Photo by Tommy Lyles of Signal2Noise.
Tyrrell Woolbert as Vivien Leigh and James R. Monaghan as Robert Strong. Photo by Edge Theatre.
Tyrrell Wollbert. Photo by David Baldock.