BWW Review: A Blast to the Past in THE SHOEBOX
Kate Brennan's The Shoebox transports audiences back in time to high school and early adolescence. This is a time that many adults would consider simple, yet, as revealed through the plights of Brennan's characters, the viewer is reminded how complicated and tumultuous it felt in the moment. The Shoebox is part of the fourth annual She NYC Arts Summer Theater Festival at The Connelly Theater, which strives to provide women writers, composers, and directors with resources to jump-start their careers in the theater industry.
This blast to the past features the stories of Kristen, Hannah, Emily, and Lauren, four best friends who are tackling the challenges of being a teenage girl in 2007. Underscored with a reminiscent soundtrack of early 2000s pop music, the play opens with the four girls at a sleepover, writing letters to their future selves. The friends talk about their hopes and dreams, gossip about other people in class, and tease each other. The four actresses portray believable fifteen year olds in both body language and youthful spirit. About halfway through the show, we are transported to 2017, when the women reunite to open their letters. Brennan's script captures the raw feelings and nuances in the women's friendships. The plot can feel disjointed at times, as the characters break away from the action to address the audience with their inner monologues without warning. Some of the scenes are repetitive, revealing what the character wish would have been said or done. This can get confusing as it is not evident what actually happened or what was part of their imagination. However, the dialogue feels realistic and true to the women's personalities, and the performances bring it to life.
Siena D'Addario is hilarious and relatable as quirky Kristen; Martha Epstein perfectly captures sensitive and hopeful Hannah; Alexis Floyd is thoughtful and passionate Emily, and Sabrina Fosse is edgy, headstrong Lauren. During the second half of the show, the audience sees definitive comparisons drawn from the characters' younger selves. The women's personal development is evident, as they have matured and become more educated, complex versions of themselves. Brennan does not shy away from discussing issues such as mental health, rehabilitation, career disappointment, and relationships throughout the play. Much of the plot centers around Hannah's growth and relationships with each of the girls. Her letter contents are not revealed until the very end.
Brennan's script is not fake or forced. The audience may find that many of the conversations are reminiscent of their own as a teenager and as of today. The Shoebox is as real as life itself; providing an introspective look into ordinary lives of ordinary women. It prompts the audience to reflect and contemplate their friendships and may bring back memories for many. This play is a perfect addition to the She NYC Arts Summer Theatre Festival, and does not disappoint.
The She NYC Arts Festival continues now through June 29th at the Connelly Theater. Tickets are $20, and available for purchase at www.shenycarts.org. The 2019 Festival will showcase 8 new full-length plays and musicals. She NYC Art's new educational program, CreateHer, will also present staged readings of 3 new short plays written and produced by high school students.
Photos by Shoshana Medney