BWW Review: W;T Receives First Rate Production at Austin Scottish Rite Theater

BWW Review: W;T Receives First Rate Production at Austin Scottish Rite Theater

W;T is a 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning drama by Margaret Edson. The play also received the "Best New Play" award for 1999 from the New York Drama Critics' Circle. Edson used her work experience in a hospital as part of the inspiration for her play. Functioning as both the narrator and a character in the play, the character of Vivian Bearing (Kristin Fern Johnson) shifts between the present and the past, as she experiences stage four ovarian cancer through diagnosis to treatment with high-dosage experimental chemotherapy and finally, to her demise. Along the way, she also examines her life choices to discovers that she prefers kindness to intellectual detachment.

While the subject matter is dark, there is plenty of humor and heart that is mined under the inventive direction of Susan Gayle Todd. This is a first class production full of fine performances and superb tech. Todd's direction divides the playing area of the Scottish Rite Theater into the stage area, where flashbacks take place; the ground floor, which serves as the hospital room and then all of the aisles surrounding the audience where the doctors enter and exit from and even some scenes taking place all around you, which immerses the audience into the action to great effect. Her direction is inventive and engaging in possibly the best use of the space I have seen.

The tech here is excellent, from Leilah Stewart and Vicki Yoder's cypher of a set design (I especially loved the white bookcases with their mysterious musical notation like shapes chock a block on the shelves), to the ever changing light design of Deanna Belardinelli. The sound design of Chris Humphrey works to support the action and the marvelous musical accompaniment of Darrel Mayers provides a gorgeous original score that is a highlight of this production. While there was no program credit for properties, kudos to whoever got all the proper medical equipment so important to this story.

The performances here are uniformly good; however, three stand out above the rest. Kristin Fern Johnson gives an marvelous performance as Vivian Bearing masterfully switching from narrator to patient. Delante Keys is terrific as Jason Posner, the former student of Bearing who learns that her detachment was not the lesson he should have learned under her tutelage. Megan Ortiz is wonderful as nurse Susie Monahan, especially in a scene with Johnson where they share a popsicle. The scene radiates warmth and truth.

Overall, W;T is a play full of humor, warmth, heart and truth. Having spent my fair share of time in hospitals this last year, I found this to be a truthful, brilliantly staged and sharply acted production worthy of both the time and money. I give my highest recommendation to W;T, and advise you to catch this example of Austin theatre at it's best.

W;T by Margaret Edson
Running Time: One Hour and Forty Five Minutes with no intermission

W;T produced by Austin Scottish Rite Theater (207 W. 18th St., Austin, TX, 78701). Co-produced by The Final Acts Project, who believe individuals should have the opportunity to write their own life script, including the final act of their life.

Fridays-Sundays, August 10 - August 25, 2018
August 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Tickets: Available online until one hour before show time, and then sold at the door.
$25 general, $20 disabled and seniors, $15 students
Online ticket sales: http://scottishritetheater.org/

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