BWW Review: Theatre Artists Studio Presents BRILLIANT TRACES
Two people adrift in the northern Alaskan wilderness and stranded in the midst of a whiteout ~ one a recluse whose refuge is a cabin hundreds of miles from anywhere, the other a frantic escapee from Arizona normalcy who has driven three thousand miles to nowhere. In Cindy Lou Johnson's fanciful and mysterious play, BRILLIANT TRACES, these two lost souls waiting to be found conduct a dance of self- recrimination and self-revelation that culminates in a testament to individuation.
In Theatre Artists Studio's current production of the play, husband-and-wife team, Kent Welborn and Heidi Haggerty Welborn, bristle with the pathos and vulnerability of their characters, Henry Harry and Rosannah.
Rosannah, bedecked in a wedding gown, literally storms into Harry's cabin and embarks on a wild rant about the travails of her travel north, the discomforts of near-freezing, and the unkempt condition of her body. All the while, Henry is cloaked in a blanket, silent and seemingly stunned at the intrusion.
This might be the prelude to a comedy, but it is not. The clue to what it is and what transpires in an uninterrupted ninety minutes of intense give-and-take, may be divined from a poem by the playwright's mother, Avah Pevlor Johnson, entitled Individuation.
If I must be wrung through the paradox,
-broken into wholeness,
wring me around the moon;
pelt me with particles from the dark side.
Fling me into space;
hide me in a black hole.
Let me dance with devils on dead stars.
Let my scars leave brilliant traces,
for my highborn soul seeks its hell-
in high places.
Both Henry and Rosannah bear traces of scars incurred by tragic moments in their respective lives, revealed unsparingly in the play's denouement. Why, his emotional reaction to a pair of satin slippers? Why, her abandonment of her wedding?
In arriving at explanations, the Wellborns do better than well in sculpting the distinctive attributes of their characters and unraveling their paradoxes. Heidi Wellborn's frantic Rosannah is a marked contrast to Kent Wellborn's self-effacing and ever-helpful Henry. Both benefit from the adroit direction of The Studio's founder, Carol MacLeod, who has created a tightly wound and well-paced drama.
It is to Johnson's imagination that we credit the creation of a setting ~ a remote, rustic and sparsely furnished haven ~ where two strangers confront and overcome their demons. Where the whiteout is defined as "what nothing looks like" and where all is indistinguishable. Where, without getting too psychological, the characters emerge distinguishable and fulfill the Jungian definition of individuation as the achievement of self-actualization.
In the end, BRILLIANT TRACES may be an allegory about falling ~ what becomes of a man when he fails to prevent a fall, what becomes of anyone who falls from grace, and what occurs when one can be saved from a fall by a redemptive embrace.
BRILLIANT TRACES runs through February 17th at The Studio in Scottsdale, AZ.
Photo credit to Mark Gluckman
Theatre Artists Studio ~ https://www.thestudiophx.org/~ 602-765-0120 ~ 12406 N. Paradise Village Parkway East, Scottsdale