Thursday, March 6, 2014

SHIRLEY VALENTINE • Dramatic License Productions

Willy Russell's 1986 comedy introduces us to Shirley Valentine, a 42 year old Liverpool housewife who has found herself entrenched in a well-worn rut. At one point she asks, “I used to be Shirley Valentine, who turned me into this?” Over the course of the next couple hours, we become her confidants as she treats us to her story and her efforts to come into her own -- a journey that Shirley, superbly portrayed by Teresa Doggett, compels you to eagerly follow.

While she's making egg n'chips for her husband Joe, Shirley weighs her life as Shirley "Bradshaw", her married name, and wonders how so many of her days have managed to slip by. Her children are grown and out on their own, and with a marriage that can be described as lukewarm at best, she has learned to endure by indulging in generous sips of Riesling and talking to the kitchen wall. She does have her little rebellions though -- Joe is expecting steak that night, but Shirley has decided that a neighboring dog whose owners are vegans would be more appreciative of a nice cut of beef than her dismissive husband. Among stories of the characters she's met in her life, described in vivid detail, we also learn about Jane, her feminist friend who caught her husband in bed with the milkman. Jane invites Shirley for a holiday in Greece, and though Shirley has to work herself up to it, she decides to go, and by this time, we're willing to gleefully help her pack her bags.

Teresa Doggett (Shirley Valentine).
Photo credit: Zachary Stefaniak
By the second act we join Shirley in Greece, and she wonders if we can even recognize her. Seeming like a totally different person, Shirley once again makes us privy to the details about how new surroundings (and a tavern keeper named Costas) have helped her gain a hold of the reins of her life -- to her, and our, delight. You go, girl!

Holding the attention of an audience for two acts is a challenging task for one person, and I'm kinda embarrassed to admit it, but it's also the reason I tend to shy away from one-person shows. But here, and not for the first time, I've had my reservations blasted to smithereens. With a charming script and strong direction by Lee Anne Mathews, Doggett pulls us into her story with ease, stepping in for various characters that are never seen, but with richly drawn portraits, and provides much laughter tinged with a little sadness, along with a growing resolve that places you firmly in her corner from the beginning. Matthew Stuckel's scenic design adds a nice touch of realism while Shirley's cooking up dinner in her understated kitchen, along with well executed light and sound design by Max Parrilla and Michel B. Perkins. Doggett is also responsible for the costume design that nicely informs Shirley's transformation from ordinary housewife to her more liberated and lighthearted vacation attire.

Teresa Doggett (Shirley Valentine).
Photo credit: Zachary Stefaniak
In a word (okay, three words), go see it! It's playing until the 16th, and I'll bet you a pound to a penny (yay, English dialects!), your time with Shirley will be delightfully satisfying.


Written by Willy Russell
Directed by Lee Anne Mathews
Dramatic License Productions, Chesterfield Mall (upper level entrance, next to Houlihans)
through March 16 | tickets: $22 - $25
Performances Fridays to Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm

Teresa Doggett (Shirley Valentine).

Scenic design by Matthew Stuckel; lighting design by Max Parrilla; sound design by Michel B. Perkins; costume design by Teresa Doggett; props by Peggy Knock; stage manager, Mark Feazel.

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