Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Body Awareness at Ion Theatre
It's "Body Awareness Week" at Shirley State College in Vermont. Speakers and installations will promote physical diversity. Also on campus: Frank Bonitatibus. He's a house guest of Phyllis and Joyce, partners for the last three years. Frank photographs naked women of all ages, with their consent.
His photos will be on display all week. Phyllis urges people to overcome an "obsession with appearance." Are Frank's photos art, or yet another objectification of women by the male gaze?
Annie Baker's uneven but interesting comedy-drama turns debate into serio-comical diatribe when Joyce wants to be photographed in the nude.
Baker adds another touch. Joyce's 21-year-old son Jared could have Asperger's Syndrome (lack of empathy and social skills, an obsession with a single subject). Jared, who swears he doesn't have the disorder, becomes a tabula rasa on whom the others push their points of view. Each wants to raise his awareness - and control the kind they favor?
Where's the line between disinterest and invasion?
At times her play runs away from Baker, and the mellow-ish conclusion leaves loose ends untied. But she's a playwright to watch. What she does well, and the Ion Theatre production enhances, is integrate vying points of view with deftly drawn, open-ended characters.
Director Claudio Raygoza has cast the show smartly. Dana Hooley suggests then delivers hard edges inside of Phyllis' guru-calm surface (her announcements of upcoming events are a hoot!). As Joyce, mother-lover-teacher-orderkeeper in the house, Linda Libby has the widest range of emotions, and delivers all.
As Frank, Walter Ritter also has a ripple-free surface. What's beneath is up to you, because Ritter doesn't signal a specific interpretation: is he or is he not a porcine objectifier?
Young Eric Parmer, a new face, does a fine job as Jared, who lives at home, quits his job at McDonalds, and brushes his teeth, almost constantly, with an electric toothbrush. Does he have Aspergers? Or is he just a brilliant young man?
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