BWW Reviews: CATF: EVERYTHING YOU TOUCH is Visually Spectacular but Lacking in Depth and Development

BWW Reviews: CATF: EVERYTHING YOU TOUCH is Visually Spectacular but Lacking in Depth and Development

Everything You Touch, a black comedy focusing on the fashion industry and two intertwining stories about how it affects two separate women's self worth, is very similar to the industry it portrays. The overall look, visual appeal and staging is phenomenal, but beneath the gorgeous costumes and flair, the heart of the production, the script and characters, leave much to be desired.

Everything You Touch bounces between flashbacks to the 1970's fashion industry and present day. Victor, a ruthless fashion designer, is a struggling artist following the popular and painful "Beauty-is-Pain" aesthetic in 1970's New York with his muse and girlfriend, Esme. When Louella, a typical Midwestern girl, wins a contest and is granted access to the fashion world, Victor slowly becomes a sell out and, inspired by Louella's every-girl American ways, makes his unique fashions more accessible and comfortable for the public, while replacing Esme professionally and personally with Louella. Meanwhile, in the present day, internet writer Jess must travel from New York to Alabama to make peace with her dying mother and hopes a new look will inspire a new personality to replace the self-loathing and low self esteem she has struggled with her entire life as a result of her mother's constant criticism.

Dina Thomas as self-employed Internet writer Jess is loveable and relatable. Thomas makes the character's struggle with her body image and low self esteem very sympathetic and unintentionally comedic at time. As the "every girl" who "is afraid of never being looked at, but always being the one looking" who doesn't meet the perceived ideal of beauty, Thomas is sadly adorable. Mark Thomas as her co-worker and secret crush, Lewis, is adorably awkward and sincere as the nerd-next-door who is in love with Jess the entire time and constantly faithful that she will one day wake up and notice him.

Jerzy Gwiazdowski as Victor is a ruthless fashion designer who takes pleasure in revealing himself as a powerful and seductive ass. Gwiazdowski quickly became the character you love to hate. Libby Matthews as Victor's fashion muse, Esme, was delightfully sarcastic and saucy. Her one-liners and quips were fantastic and her cold demeanor disguised the deep pain and depression she felt at being replaced. Marianna McClellan as Alabama bumpkin Louella is absolutely hilarious and brings a much needed breath of fresh air into the stuffy fashion offices with her sincere compliments and small town ways. Watching Louella eventually transform into Esme's replacement as Victor's muse was heartbreaking.

A very unique idea to the show is the use of the ensemble consisting of Molly Brown, Allyson Malandra, Sarah Nealis, Adam Phillips, Katya Stepanov and Liba Vaynberg as fashion models who function as set pieces. The models enter, dressed in different fashion ensembles each time and surround Jess in almost every scene, acting as furniture pieces and accentuate the action with precisely timed unison movements or gestures at certain moments in the piece.

Structurally, the play is a little difficult to follow. Gleamed through the changing fashion and pop culture references, some scenes occur in 1974 as flashbacks and some occur in the present day. But, until an important plot detail is revealed in Act II, there is a glaring logistical flaw that leaves the audience majorly puzzled through most of the Act I, unless they manage to guess the major reveal ahead of time.

Similarly, at times, some of the characters are flat and plot devices are tired. Listening to Jess, a perfectly healthy looking woman, complain scene after scene about her negative body image and low self worth quickly grows stale, especially when the obvious boy-next-door plot device is used with her geeky co-worker Lewis. Watching Lewis obviously reveal his love for Jess while she is obliviously focusing on what to wear and whether she will ever be the one people "look at" is simply painful.

In a show focusing on fashion design, costumes are obviously important and the elaborate period fashions do not disappoint. Eccentric evening gowns and asymmetrical silhouettes accentuate the "beauty-is-pain" ideal Victor strives to enforce throughout the show. The set design is absolutely phenomenal, with fashion model mannequins dangling from the ceiling and high, arched sets meant to emulate the fashion design studios in the Village. A large multi level set also allows scenes in the character's apartments to occur on the upper level while the lower level serves as a runway, fashion office and much more. The computer projections and video images used in the show are spectacular and add to the overall visual appeal. The show, much like some of the fashion model stereotypes it criticizes, comes across as visually gorgeous eye candy that leaves the viewer craving a more substantial script and character development.

Everything You Touch continues to run as one of the five plays in rotating repertory at the Contemporary American Theater Festival. Everything You Touch performances occur in the Frank Center Theater on the campus of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. The final performance occurs August 2 at 6:00 PM. For more information about the show schedule, the 2015 season or to order tickets, please visit www.catf.org.

Photo Credit: CATF Media Gallery

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From This Author Johnna Leary

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