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Review: BRIGHT HALF LIFE at The Road Theatre On Magnolia

The smart, moving two-person show is another hit for The Road

Review: BRIGHT HALF LIFE at The Road Theatre On Magnolia

Pulitzer Prize nominee Tanya Barfield's brilliant BRIGHT HALF LIFE is smartly and artfully realized by director Amy K. Harmon at the Road Theatre on Magnolia. With just two actors, the energy never flags, but it does fluctuate, veering as it does from high comedy to pathos to heart-rending drama, sometimes all within the course of 30 seconds. It all adds up to another solid project from The Road Theatre, which consistently stages challenging and rewarding productions.

The show focuses on an interracial lesbian couple, Vicki (Kacie Rogers) and Erica (Tiffany Wolff), who meet at an office job in 1985. Vicki is the more regimented of the pair, while Erica is a freer spirit, which both brings them together and creates fissures in their relationship as the years go past, all the way up to 2031, encompassing all the most banal and yet the most meaningful facets of a life - kids, death, marriage, divorce, career.

The story is told in short bursts, the actors segueing from drama to comedy and back on a dime, plumbing emotional depths with complex characterizations and deft skill. Their comic timing is so precise, you'd think it would draw attention to itself, but it seems organic, like it hasn't been choreographed and rehearsed at all. Rogers and Wolff create a familiarity between their characters that makes their actions and misunderstandings and choices seem real, fragile, natural.

Review: BRIGHT HALF LIFE at The Road Theatre On Magnolia

Set design by Brian Graves is simple with a circle at center stage and two enormous squares, like enormous photo frames, at the back, which are used in many contexts and to great effect. The lighting by Derrick McDaniel and the sound by Marc Antonio Pritchett are critical in helping keep the audience on track with the story and the mood (especially considering there is no score), and both are on point throughout, guiding us through Vicki and Erica's tribulations.

Told in approximately 90 minutes with no set or costume changes, Wolff and Rogers never leave the stage. Barfield's insightful script moves at lightning speed with well-oiled execution, and for as time-shifting as the narrative is, it's surprisingly clear; there are no turns that throw the story off despite how sudden some of the transitions are. Hold on to your hats, because it's a roller coaster of emotions, and Harmon elicits fantastic performances from her riveting actors. Wolff has a stunning, romantic declaration at the end that punctuates the characters' decades-long romance, and it is magnificent, as is this show.

BRIGHT HALF LIFE is performed at The Road Theatre, 10747 Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood, through May 29. Tickets can be purchased by calling (818) 761-8838 or visiting RoadTheatre.org.

Photo credits: Elizabeth Kimball


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