BWW Reviews: Jon Keevy's EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING a Play Sewn Like Delicate Lace

BWW Reviews: Jon Keevy's EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING a Play Sewn Like Delicate Lace
Briony Horwitz and Jazzara Jaslyn in EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING
Photo credit: Nardus Engelbrecht Photography

'Behind every beautiful thing,' Bob Dylan tells us, 'there's been some kind of pain.' So it is in Jon Keevy's new play, the title of which recalls those lyrics in "Not Dark Yet". EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING, which opened on Thursday at Alexander Bar and Café's intimate Upstairs Theatre, once again pairs Keevy with actress Briony Horwitz, who for the last three years has been performing his powerhouse solo play, OWL. This time around, a second actress, recently graduated Jazzara Jaslyn, joins Horwitz onstage, along with director Tara Notcutt, whose ...MISKIEN similarly delved into the dichotomy of beauty and pain that characterises so many human relationships.

EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING takes a look at the relationship between two sisters, Susan and Katelyn, who are at first glance just about as different as they can be. Everything is Susan's life is ordered, she diligently having made her way through university to become a lawyer. Katelyn leaves things unfinished, having attempted a first year of studies more than once. Susan has a husband and child; Katelyn drifts from lover to lover. And as the play reveals in its first tender moments, Susan is adopted; Katelyn is their parents' miracle baby.

BWW Reviews: Jon Keevy's EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING a Play Sewn Like Delicate Lace
Briony Horwitz in EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING
Photo credit: Nardus Engelbrecht Photography

Negotiating the chasm between them is the stuff of Keevy's drama, an intimate meditation on the nature and meaning of family. Following a brief prologue where the two sisters are seen as children, Keevy traps the two sisters in a hospital room, Katelyn having survived driving her car off the side of a mountain. There's something about Keevy's writing that recalls Robert Harling's STEEL MAGNOLIAS. Perhaps it is in the way he makes use of typical personality types to get to grips with its themes, although EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING is never as robust as that 1987 play about the bond between six women in north-western Louisiana. Keevy's script for EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING feels like delicately woven piece of lace: breathe on it too hard, and it may dissolve. This is not to say that the play is all precious sentiment. There are sequences when the two don't pull the punches when it comes to their thoughts on each other's life choices. Nonetheless, the stitches that keep the play together are finely sewn and could easily be pulled out in the hands of an unskilled director.

Notcutt's sensitive hand preserves the fineness of Keevy's work. A pool of simple, white light, encircles her staging of the play, leaving the impression that this is the only world that matters for Susan and Katelyn at this moment in their lives. Mentions of Susan's husband, Katelyn's boyfriend, their parents and even the nursing staff at the hospital threaten to disrupt what could be the making or breaking of this sisterhood. But... they never do, and the audience is allowed to observe how things play out.

BWW Reviews: Jon Keevy's EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING a Play Sewn Like Delicate Lace
Jazzara Jaslyn in EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING
Photo credit: Nardus Engelbrecht Photography

As actors, Horwitz and Jaslyn complement each other well on stage. The roles are tricky because together they create a kind of dialectic construction of human personae: neither exists without the other, but one also is the other. Both are beautiful; both are in some kind pain. Horwitz gives a strong exterior to Susan, using an apparent insensitivity to mask the insecurities she reveals as the play moves along. Jaslyn's Katelyn is a little spitfire, with the actress playing up the character's acerbity to keep in check any mawkish sickbed sympathy the audience might be tempted to have for her.

EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING is a bittersweet microcosm of the human experience. The simple design of the piece - with a bed built by Keevy himself - keeps the focus on the action, which is where it belongs. It is in grappling with these two sisters' encounter that elusive thoughts rise to the surface about what lies behind the artifice of one's own life. Beautiful pain. Finding one in the other is our only hope.

EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING runs at the Alexander Upstairs Theatre until 23 May at 7pm nightly. Tickets cost R90 (R80 if prepaid) and can be booked at the Alexander Bar website, in person at the bar anytime during its regular opening hours or by telephone on 021 300 1652. The Alexander Bar & Café is situated at 76 Strand Street in central Cape Town and can be followed on Facebook or Twitter for further information about EVERY BEAUTIFUL THING and other upcoming shows.

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From This Author David Fick

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