BWW Review: BO-NITA at Urbanite Theatre
Sarasota's intimate Urbanite Theatre is known for "our commitment to fresh works, burgeoning playwrights, and actor-driven productions", states founder and actor Harry Lipstein. Bo-Nita is one of those actor-driven productions and Terri Weagant, (Bo-Nita), absolutely illuminates the stage in this one-woman show.
Easily alternating in distinct speech patterns, vocal alterations, personality traits and body mannerisms, Ms. Weagant believably becomes 13 year-old Bo-Nita, Bo-Nita's addicted mother Mona, her boyfriend Leon, her dead Grandma Tiny, Colonel T, her Mom's abusive ex, Gerard, and his uncle Jacques. We envision these characters through her eyes and learn how they tainted her life. We come to know, understand and love Bo-Nita in all her awkward ways.
You can't take your eyes off Ms.Weagant for one minute as she embodies Bo-Nita and 6 other characters. As Bo-Nita, she walks you through her tormented life. While always looking on the bright side; Bo-Nita struggles to maintain her sanity, her emotions and her temper. The audience witnesses the fragile life of this sweet kid in the opening scene, who is alone, sitting on a park bench. Backpack and water bottle in hand, her story begins. She tells us about the night she had to stave off sexual advances from Gerard, her Mother's ex. Although a restraining order was placed on him because of past improprieties, a lonely Bo-Nita calls him to visit her, wanting nothing more than just company. He doesn't see it that way and when he makes a move she fights him off and calls him names. That infuriates him but he is stopped in the middle of his rage by a heart attack and falls to the floor, where Bo-Nita takes out her anger and beats him. When her mother Mona comes home with new boyfriend Leon and sees the lifeless body of Gerard, insanity ensues. Whatever shall they do with the body? Is he indeed dead? Who is going to help clean up this mess and keep it from authorities?
This story is dark and heart wrenching yet entertaining, engaging and often hilarious when trying to plot what to do with Gerard's body. Not a lot of actors can pull off this kind of acting. There are so many lines to remember, staging that needs to be hit at just the right time and characters you must be ready to breathe life into at the drop of a hat - many of whom have conversations with each other. Ms.Weagant is captivating in this performance. Director Kristin Franklin pulled out as much as you can extract from the accomplished Ms.Weagant and kept a pace and clarity that was easy to follow, even though the storyline vacillated so many times throughout the play. Scenic designer Jeffrey Weber and lighting designer Ryan E. Finzelber kept the stage to an effective minimum, allowing focus on the "characters", while transporting us to the places we were to experience via Bo-Nita's descriptive.
If you want to see some fine acting and come away feeling in awe of what you just witnessed, Bo-Nita is the play for you. Urbanite is the perfect theatre for this type of drama that draws you in and holds you captive.
Bo-Nita runs for 90 minutes with no intermission through April 30, 2017. For more information visit: www.urbanitetheatre.com.