BWW Review: ORLANDO - Go Where It Takes You
In 1928, Virginia Woolf wrote a book, a book about the strange and wondrous life of Orlando, a man who experiences a series of erotic, extraordinary adventures that defy the passage of time and age and gender. Adapted by Sarah Ruhl in 2003, Orlando is a play that, in the sparkling tradition of its parent novel, exists outside the boundaries of conventional storytelling. Orlando is the consort of the aging queen; Orlando falls in overwhelming love with Sasha, the elusive Russian femme fatale; Orlando ponders life in a period of ennui at his lavish estate; Orlando is aggressively pursued by an archduke in drag; Orlando travels to Constantinople and falls into deathlike slumber; Orlando wakes up as a woman.
Recognizable, real-world constructs are present in Orlando, but the ties to reality are ambiguous and abandoned without hesitation. Orlando is a dreamscape, a journey of beauty-a physical expression of the protagonist's self-narrated life story. Tess Plant-Thomas plays Orlando, both male and female, with a sense of honesty and wonder in a life of exploration and discovery. Orlando tells his account in the third-person: the play is not a story, but the retelling of a story, and the story of Orlando is told by Orlando. The layers of storytelling are complex and artistically devised and choreographed. Director Mary Plant-Thomas has created a show that is simultaneously jovial, serene, provocative and innocent.
Orlando's experience is a journey of exploration in which time is boundless. She enjoys several centuries of living, loving, and writing poetry. Gender is fluid, as is sexuality. Morgan Altenhoff, Stephanie Farnum, Rob Grayson, and Erika Leachman play men, play women, and play with the essence of being men, of being woman. Female Orlando discovers that while the power she once wielded as a man has been replaced with a somewhat different set of skills, she is, gender regardless, the same essential person. She takes the metamorphosis in stride, and spends her centuries of ageless existence in an eager meditation on life.
Elements Theatre Collective presents their shows at a number of venues, which gives them the opportunity to make each show unique. I watched Orlando in the dark serenity of the McDermott-Crockett Mortuary. The backdrop for the play sets the tone, and I expect that when Orlando is performed at Divinitree Yoga studio (hopefully against the majestic mural of Hindu Divinity), it will have an interesting tone of its own. Yet, both a mortuary and a yoga studio are places to, like Orlando, consider the fascination of life, to ponder strange, unattainable meaning. A lesson appropriate for this play is the idea of allowance: allowance to love, to grieve, to accept change, and Terry Li, Elements's talented hair and make-up artist, described the experience best: "Just go where it takes you."
Directed by Mary Plant-Thomas
Elements Theatre Collective (Free Admission)
July 25th Carpenteria Women's Center
July 26th Divinitree Yoga
July27 Better Days Yoga