NY Theater Review By Marcina Zaccaria
The Interart Theatre Development Series presents Blessed Unrest’s production of Lying, a visionary play, adapted for the stage by Matt Opatrny, directed and choreographed by Jessica Burr.
Lying is a fantastic journey, featuring ideas and images from the metaphorical memoir by Lauren Slater. Jessica Ranville plays Lauren, a character based on the acclaimed novelist who wrote Prozac Diary. With dancing nuns, scenes of ice skating and snow, and actual smells of orange, Lying is both a compelling medical drama and a sensual feast.
Director and Choreographer Jessica Burr brings to life a captivating story. Burr’s company, Blessed Unrest, “uses the safe structure of training, rehearsal and performance to create an environment where dangerous things can happen.” With Lying, Burr carefully directs experimental theater actors who run, fall, and dash around the stage, creating extraordinary scenic pictures. No moment is left undefined, as Lauren searches for the truth that is deeper than facts.
The shakes and the pains of Lauren’s epilepsy are seen, as the lead character makes her way in the world, despite every challenge. As a person with epilepsy, she struggles to find her identity after frightening doctor’s visits and the awkwardness of school. Lauren finds magical ways to transform her everyday as she attempts to both fall and maintain a sense of grounding. There are impressive performances from the larger than life supporting cast who play The Mother, Pianist, Old Nun, and School Psychologist. Rich Brown (The American Family at Edinburgh Fringe), Charise Greene, Sonia Villani, and Nathan Richard Wagner add dimension, as the lead characters’ memories get increasingly vivid and convoluted.
As the story is pieced together, the performers contribute to the narrative that Lauren is always building. As epilepsy causes scars, Lauren is changed in new and troubling ways, until she finally endures a surgical procedure that divides her corpus callosum. Scenic Designer Neal Wilkinson creates a blue set that features a white tree, a kind of centerpiece that actually splits in half at intermission. The characters are asked to walk across the divide for the entire second act.
Lying isn’t cautionary. It’s reflective, and conscious about guiding the audience through the signs and symbols of the drama. Though most of the play leans toward the comic, with bursts of theatricality and plenty of giddy, high-energy vignettes, the second act provides glimpses of a stark, sometimes upsetting reality. The lead character fumbles through difficult sexual episodes that contain nudity. As Lauren looks for connection, she begins to tell lies that seem better than the truth.
Lighting Designer Jason Jeunnette provides bright lights that shine beyond the blue wall, as the words Lying disappear in the background. Costume Designer Summer Lee Jack provides playful colors and shapes, thrown on top of basic dance clothes. Sound Designer Nicholas Foster keeps the actors moving with bouncy music from the eighties.
Lying is playing until November 3 in a limited engagement at The Interart Theatre, located at 500 West 52 Street, at the corner of 10th Avenue. Additional information about the show can be found at www.blessedunrest.org.