Produced by the Women’s Project Theater, “The Architecture of Becoming,” playing at City Center, is refreshing.
The play begins forcefully. With accentuated hips and a dazzling hat, an actress speaks proudly into the microphone and takes us through time. The character that is like a guide begins by giving us a history lesson about the building on 55th Street that was constructed in1924 by the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
It was an interesting collaborative work. Five Authors penned the script for the “Architecture of Becoming,” and it was staged by three directors. It’s much more than a showcase, though, and quite skillfully constructed. Astonishingly cohesive, the larger, conceptual elements of the show never seem dry or dull.
The play was written by Kara Lee Corthron, Sarah Gancher, Virginia Grise, Dipika Guha, and Lauren Yee. The writers look at themes like how to embrace a new world, what is the nature of friendship, and how do we find belonging in a shared space. They consider how architecture and becoming intersect, and they ask how we build a world on common ground.
“The Architecture of Becoming” takes its cues from silent film. During the pre-show, moving pictures projected on the back screen provide a framework through which the characters later reveal their stories. The actors define their role in the times as they bound across the stage. They are a tight ensemble, and all of them do a fine job. Claudia Acosta, Vanessa Kai, Christopher Livingston, Jon Norman Schneider, and Danielle Skraastad are conscious of the images they are creating. There is not a moment wasted, as they dash across the stage. Extraordinarily aware of who they are in each part of the drama, their characters are clearly developed. Each of their stories is unique and important.
The overall direction of the show is dynamic, and three directors, Lauren Keating, Lydia Fort, Elena Araoz are responsible for the success. The moments of the play are well-crafted, and the performances are incredibly energetic. The actors are very quick to think on their feet, and the choreographic staging has a great sensibility. Although the text sometimes feels repetitive, the play never seems lackluster as earlier themes of the play are reiterated.
In fact, the show is bright and colorful overall. Fun, detailed costumes give the audience a fresh look at time and place. Kate Fry’s carefully chosen costumes embrace body consciousness, making a strong statement about the people onstage. The sound by Elisheba Ittoop gives a sense of fullness and keeps us in the exact world of the play. Scenery by Justin Townsend embraces the building’s history. A textured wall is in the background, and hanging lights blink to mark transitions.
As “The Architecture of Becoming” is a production of Women’s Project Theater, the feminist roots are seen. It is not only a women’s drama.. At the core of the play is a quest for identity, and the need for stories to be one’s own. If there is a larger, uplifting message about women in the play, it is about longevity. As architecture shifts and time changes, the stories and the people are always there.
“The Architecture of Becoming” is playing until March 23rd at City Center at 131 W. 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. Tickets are available online at Wptheater.org.