BWW Review: ON THE VERGE SEASON 3 at CAW: Community Arts Workshop
A community's point of view is expressed through the local art scene, and Santa Barbara's On The Verge Festival promotes underrepresented points of view by producing theatre by female playwrights, LGBTQIA playwrights, and playwrights of color. In its third year, On The Verge's company of young artists delivers an enthusiastic community atmosphere and theatre that's accessible in cost and pertinent in subject matter.
Here's what happened in On the Verge's third season:
At The Table
At The Table, directed by Kate Bergstrom, takes on all the hot-button topics of the generation: race, abortion, feminism, privilege, gender roles, sexuality, and identity. A group of 20-something, friends-from-college goes out to the country for a weekend reprieve from urban living and have a series of heated exchanges that grow increasingly personal. The coolest part of this piece's theatricality is the carefully crafted blocking: these discussions happen swiftly--and often simultaneously--and feature rotating participants, demanding careful timing and choreography, achieved with grace. (It also says a lot about the charisma of the collective cast to hold the audience despite portraying characters who are all a bit obnoxious.) There's great chemistry between the characters, and seemingly endless sources of personality conflict, making At The Table sly and witty, with a sustained level of tension. Featuring: Sarai Ford, Evan Andrew Horwitz, Louis McWilliams, Joshua Banks, Riley Berris, Andy Cowell, Kameron Tarlow, and Lindsey Twigg.
By Thais Francis
Directed by Josiah Davis
Based on recent events, such as the violence in Charlottsville and the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez (the officer who shot Philando Castile), among too many others, Outcry, Thais Francis's play about victims of racism, is a necessary piece of theatre for the current times. The play brings representations of Mamie Till (Diva Johnson), Emmett Till (Brandon Nnoli), Trayvon Martin (Nate Memba), Amadou Diali (Joshus Banks), and Nicole Bell (Joré Aaron) together at a nexus of time and imagination for the purpose of, according to director Josiah Davis, giving a human face and persona to these historical (and recent) cases of racism and the brutal overreach of the police and vigilante justice.
Outcry highlights vibrant characters against a stark (physical and emotional) backdrop, and the staging, complete with music and dance, is engaging. On The Verge's treatment of the material successfully fosters connection between characters and audience. Tweaking and defining the story's narrative--which, in its current version, is nebulous--will ease some of the pressure on the characters to offer concise understanding of their motivations. It's unclear if these characters exist in a version of the afterlife, or if they're figments of Nicole Bell's imagination--without a solid storyline, it's difficult to determine the play's specific tone, leaving the characters drifting. However, the cast is discernibly invested in the material, and the performances, especially the inclusion of musician and vocalist, Tolliver, as a mysterious, melodious "ancestor", are brimming with energy and social significance. Outcry feels unfinished, but is still a fresh, vital voice in the Santa Barbara theatrical scene.
A Likely Pair
By Julia Izumi
Directed by Samantha Eve
Of all the plays at the festival, Julia Izumi's A Likely Pair is the most pervaded by metaphor. One (Mathew Goldsholl) and Two (Brittany Harter) are childlike siblings who live together in an almost idyllic Neverlandian world until Poison (Katie Croyle) arrives with intentions set on One. The piece is more theatric poetry than pros, marked by attractive, loaded language and a disjointed narrative. The story of One's spiral, brought on by his relationship with Poison, asks more questions than it answers, and pushes audiences toward personal introspection and consideration without overtly naming vices. And while the poison making everyone suffer so sublimely is never overtly identified, the play explores the broader concept of life's inevitable unhealthy relationships.
Written by Maggie Yates
Directed by Katie Williams
Peanut Butter Jelly Cream Cheese Bagel: A Play About the Brain
Written and performed by Lindsey Twigg and Danielle Draper
Did you miss the summer shorts? Both mini-plays will be available on Theatrix (Theatrixsb.com), the podcast about Santa Barbara theatre, art, and culture. You can listen to my short play, Femfest: Talkback, in which C-list reality star Farraleigh Webster's (Brittany Harter) appearance at Femfest turns sour when a dyed-in-the-wool fan (Dia Rabin/Emma Inglehart) and a skeptical journalist (Jessica Balonoff) go head to head over whether or not Farraleigh's persona is worthy of notice at a feminism festival. You can also listen to Lindsey Twigg and Danielle Draper perform their piece, Peanut Butter Jelly Cream Cheese Bagel: A Play About the Brain, in which Twigg plays the emotional right brain, and Draper plays the logical left brain. PBJCCB is a warm, comic look at how the two (personified) halves of the brain process the emotional journey of meeting a potential love interest and ultimately having their heart broken.