Review: BODY AWARENESS at Ridgefield Theater Barn

By: Jun. 11, 2017
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Saturday, June 10, I saw BODY AWARENESS at the Ridgefield Theater Barn, in Ridgefield, CT. This one act play features four talented cast members who each portray their roles in a highly believable manner that is guaranteed to provoke emotion from the entire audience. Director Maryann Koltun makes excellent use of Nick Kaye's brilliant set design that incorporates a kitchen, a bedroom, and a part of a college, all without requiring any set changes.

The central protagonist is Joyce, who is expertly portrayed by Amber Mason. Joyce is presented with the challenges of balancing the needs of her socially awkward 21 year old son, Jared, who is still living at home, with the needs of Joyce's lesbian partner, Phyllis, with whom Joyce also shares the home. Joyce's life becomes even more complicated by the presence of Frank, a male houseguest who draws the ire of Phyllis, is a poor role model for Jared, and still somehow intrigues Joyce with the thought of Joyce possibly posing nude for him. Joyce is confronted with the emotional dilemma as to whether such posing would constitute liberation from the pressure of self-consciousness over her body image, or whether it would merely be an exploitative and degrading act of self-objectification.

Actor Ryan Wenke steals the show in the role of Jared, who is in adamant denial that he may have Asperger's Syndrome, despite displaying many of the tendencies. Ryan Wenke's mannerisms and vocal patterns are so spot on that it makes Jared's Asperger's Syndrome totally believable, as Ryan Wenke truly becomes that character, on stage. Jared provides humor with various comical comments, but also reveals his deep emotional insecurities and struggles. Ryan Wenke conveys Jared's serious emotional side with such conviction that the audience feels Jared's pain and wants the best for him.

David Fritsch convincingly portrays Frank, the houseguest whose profession involves taking nude photography of consenting women and young girls, claiming it to be for artistic purposes. The deliberate mysteriousness of Frank's character and questionability of his intent and agenda enhance the suspense of the story, keeping the audience unsure, but intrigued, as to whether Frank is to be trusted or feared. Frank's attitudes towards women are eventually revealed in a discussion he has with Jared.

RoseMary Howard provides a strong acting performance in the role of Phyllis, an often obnoxious know-it-all who thinks that her psychology degree and college professor position make her the moral and intellectual superior of Joyce, Jared, and Frank, despite the fact that Phyllis' worldview reflects unjustified hatred against a large segment of society. When Joyce asks Phyllis to use credible evidence to support her condescending perspective against high school and grammar school teachers, Phyllis dismisses the fair request, pompously claiming that her own self-aggrandizing views constitute "common knowledge." Audience members who share Phyllis' worldview, however, may find this character to be very likeable. Whether one finds Phyllis to be likeable or despicable, one must admit that RoseMary Howard's stellar acting performance truly brought the character to life and is guaranteed to create strong feelings from audience members.

As expected at the Ridgefield Theater Barn, the cast and director do an excellent job presenting a highly entertaining production. Playwright Annie Baker provokes many emotions through this play, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with those views presented. BODY AWARENESS will continue to run at the Ridgefield Theater Barn in Ridgefield, CT, on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 P.M., until June 24, with Sunday matinees on June 11 and June 18 at 5:00 P.M.


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