BWW Reviews: BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK at Everyman Theatre - What a Joy!
What a great choice of Everyman Theatre's Artistic Director Vince Lancisi to present Lynn Nottage's VERA STARK. He certainly knows what his subscribers like and with this production, he has hit a home run.
But this play needs a leading lady who can handle a very complex role, an actress who has incredible talent to play the multi-layered person who is Vera Stark. And thankfully, Lancisi has just that person who just happens to be a member of the Everyman Acting Company making her debut on the stage of the "new" Everyman Theatre, Dawn Ursula and A STAR IS BORN. What an incredible performance Ursula gives to the role of this multi-layered person. It's a compelling performance.
In Act I, Vera plays a maid around 1933 to the famous actress Gloria Mitchell known at "America's little sweetheart" (played by the wonderful Beth Hylton) and is attempting to get a role in a new film entitled "The Belle of New Orleans" (a film similar to "Gone With the Wind"). For Black actresses, this is no easy task.
Stark lives with two other aspiring Black actresses Lottie (the fabulous Kelli Blackwell and Anna (the terrific Kathryn Tkel) who uses her light skin to pretend to be from Brazil and dates famous director Maximillian Von Oster (Robert Lyons). Stark meets the director's assistant Lerory Barksdale (Yaegel T. Welch) and there is a hilarious dinner party where the trio of Black actresses try to impress the Director to put them in his film.
In Act II, the audience is able to see the film which was actually shot in Everyman's rehearsal hall and it is worth the price of admission thanks to acclaimed Cinematographyer Thomas Kaufman responsible for the short black and white movie. It is now 1973 and we see the film thanks to a television talk show (a la Mike Douglas) where MC Brad Donovan (the always spectacular Wil Love) has as his guests actresses Stark and Mitchell. Ursula is just amazing in role in the film.
During the talk show there is some great conversation between Stark and Mitchell and a surprise is revealed which catches the audience off-guard.
Lancisi made a superb decision in getting the esteemed Walter Dallas to direct. He does a superb job with this complex and yet funny play.
I am a huge fan of playwright Nottage. I first encountered her work at Center Stage with her wonderful INTIMATE APPARREL. I've also seen her FABULATION, LAS MENINAS, and the play for which she won the Pultizer, RUINED which I'm happy to announce will be part of Everyman's 2014-15 season. I even met Nottage at Lincoln Center a few years ago and mentioned to her I thought INTIMATE APPARREL would make a great musical. She thought it would make a better opera. Well, thanks to the Washington Post's Nelson Pressley, I learned the Metropolitan Opera is interested in the making of the opera with composer Ricky Ian Gordon. (See Pressley's article on Nottage in the Post from Pressley on April 11, 2014.)
VERA STARK runs to May 11. For tickets, call 410-752-2208 or visit www.everymantheatre.org.