Review: WOMEN WITHOUT WALLS Takes Four Incredible Actresses to Their Final Destination

By: Nov. 09, 2015
What is it about existential theatre that draws us into a plot line that may or may not be clearly defined or result in an ending that makes sense initially? Thought-provoking theatre has always been and will continue to be a great reason for experiencing this type of play, allowing audiences to examine their own thought processes and reason for being.

Such is the case in the World Premiere of Robin Rice's WOMEN w/o WALLS, presented by Broads' Word Theatre at The Lounge Theatre 2 in Hollywood. The group made a splash with their inaugural production, FIFTY SHADES OF SHREW at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, winning the Encore! Producers Award. In that production, an all-female cast allowed actresses to successfully play roles traditionally portrayed by men - with more than a touch of feminine sexuality.

Their sophomore World Premiere production WOMEN w/o WALLS is based on the myth of Charon the ferryman on the River Styx, inspired by Dante's Inferno and Sartre's No Exit. It is an exploration of the fine line between life and death, decision and non-decision, and the intense human experience of connection. While there is no doubt from the moment you meet the four characters that they are on a trip to their final destination, each must find a way to fulfill her destiny before the train reaches its destination.

Pamela (Esther Mira), a spoiled woman from the Upper East Side, steps onto her first New York Subway train and is confronted by a Nurse (Kristin Carey) who quickly makes it clear that all is not as it seems and time is irrelevant. They are joined by the homeless, deteriorating Inez (Jen Albert) and music obsessed, street-wise Tank (Natalia Ochoa). Through the course of an accelerating journey from the underworld of NYC to the Underworld of myth and legend, the true realization of what this journey entails dawns on them through their interactions with each other.

While not giving away too many of the important plot details, I can tell you that the show is perfectly cast with each of the actresses fully embodying their character's persona and physicality. Kristin Carey's calm, reserved and knitting Nurse takes on the role of Charon, guiding her passengers with care and insight, allowing us to see her patience as well as exasperation with their ranting, raving and shenanigans as she attempts to ease their individual paths to self-examination and acceptance.

Jen Albert, who wowed audiences a Katharina in FIFTY SHADES OF SHREW, again takes full possession of her role, this time as the one-legged and sickly Inez who at first seems to be on the inside track with the Nurse, having taken this ride before and doing her best to keep the two newcomers on the train. Her often evil gap-toothed countenance along with her ability to balance on one leg while realistically using a crutch, at first made me think this could be a train to Hell, especially when stage lighting often shifted to red in her presence.

The two new passengers both have lessons to learn, thanks to the Nurse and Inez. Esther Mira/s Pamela appears to be on the train to visit her over-bearing father who has basically given her anything she wants in life. Toting her boxed clarinet with her, she seems totally disgusted by the train's dirty environment, wiping down the seats before sitting on them. But the first clue of her journey takes place when she removes her sunglasses, allowing us to see her vulnerability, even though she admits to hiding her shortcomings from her father. As she explores her life, Mira smoothly transitions from uptight snob to a caring and supportive friend to the other strangers.

Natalia Ochoa takes on the role of angry, music-obsessed street urchin Tank with her entire soul, allowing the internAl Anger to explode over and over again as her frustration with life and the others on the train consume her. When she finally appears to calm down and exposes a more kindly nature with the others, you know the time bomb inside her is ready to explode at any moment thanks to the Ochoa's edgy portrayal.

Director Frances Loy is to be commended on her small-set direction, especially for the illusion of a moving train via Aaron Lyons set and sound design, the swaying motion of the actresses throughout their journey which allows the train to be perceived as all the more real. Kudos to scenic painter Caitlín S. McCarthy for adding real depth to the otherwise empty train.

The World Premiere of Robin Rice's WOMEN w/o WALLS continues on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 4:00 pm through Saturday, December 12, produced by Tara Donovan, Artistic Director Danielle Ozymandias, and associate producer Esther Mira, and is a co-production with The Lounge Theatres. Tickets are $22, available through Running time is 85 minutes without an intermission.

Broads' Word Theatre will host Talk Backs after the performances on Sunday, November 15 with the Artistic Director, Director, and cast and on Sunday, December 6 with the Writer, Director, and cast.
Photo credit: Alex Moy

The Nurse (Kristin Carey-Hall) awaits her passengers.

The Nurse (Kristin Carey-Hall) assists Pamela (Esther Mira) in examining her life

The Nurse (Kristin Carey-Hall), Pamela (Esther Mira), and Inez (Jen Albert)

Pamela (Esther Mira) and Inez (Jen Albert)

The Nurse (Kristin Carey-Hall) comforts Tank (Natalia Ochoa)

Inez (Jen Albert)

Inez (Jen Albert) and Tank (Natalia Ochoa)