Monday, August 14, 2017

THE COLOR OF AUGUST • Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble continues its "Season of Adaptation" with The Color of August, by Spanish playwright Paloma Pedrero. Written in 1988, and translated and adapted for this production by Will Bonfiglio, The Color of August explores a reunion of two artists and old friends that wavers between soft embraces and loud shouting, dependence and conflict. The play features Ellie Schwetye and Rachel Tibbetts -- actors who have been together in a few two-handers in the past, and there’s an undeniable synergy between them that complements the play. Who will portray which role is determined by a coin toss before each performance. The night I went it was “heads”, and Tibbetts played Maria, a successful artist, with Schwetye playing Laura, her inspiration.

Laura (Ellie Schwetye) and Maria (Rachel Tibbetts).
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell
Maria and Laura have known each other since childhood and shared an intimate friendship, but eight years have passed since they’ve spoken. Since their estrangement, Maria's artwork has garnered fame, while Laura, who gave up her art some time ago, scrapes by as a model. Laura doesn’t know it yet, but they’re about to meet up again. Using a false name, Maria has booked Laura for a modeling gig, and the air is charged with tension from the moment they see each other. Maria may have accolades and wealth, but she’s desperate for Laura to stay, while Laura meets Maria with cool indifference. Nursing old wounds and trying to maintain leverage, they fluctuate between attraction and aversion, and end up stripping down, literally, splashing each other with paint -- seemingly the only way they can reach a level playing field.

Maria (Rachel Tibbetts) and Laura (Ellie Schwetye).
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell
Director Lucy Cashion, artistic director and founder of Equally Represented Arts, keeps the interaction between the women surprising, and includes her signature use of movement, providing a further extension of the push and pull of a tangled relationship. As Maria, Tibbetts entices and cajoles to be in Laura’s company for as long as she can be, offering her drink after drink after drink. Schwetye’s Laura is agitated when she realizes she’s been duped into a forced reunion, and aloof when she reluctantly agrees to stay awhile. The only other character is “John”, a man mentioned, briefly heard, but not seen. Maggie Genovese and Anne Genovese provide the original paintings, and Bess Moynihan provides the scenic design of a nicely appointed artist's space featuring Maria's latest piece center stage, and a fountain in front of the stage, functioning practically and symbolically.

With a running time of about an hour, it’s a compelling study of an emancipation of sorts -- humorous and bold, that leaves you considering it in the car on the way home. It’s playing at the Chapel until the 19th.

Laura (Ellie Schwetye) and Maria (Rachel Tibbetts).
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell

Written by Paloma Pedrero 
Directed by Lucy Cashion 
through August 19 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8pm
Pay-What-You-Can performances on Thursdays, August 10 and August 17

(If the coin toss is heads)
Maria: Rachel Tibbetts
Laura: Ellie Schwetye

(If the coin toss is tails)
Maria: Ellie Schwetye
Laura: Rachel Tibbetts

Laura (Ellie Schwetye) and
Maria (Rachel Tibbetts).
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell
Stage Manager: Kristen Strom
Translator: Will Bonfiglio
Dramaturg: Miranda Jagels Félix
Scenic Designer: Bess Moynihan
Lighting Designer: Bess Moynihan
Costume Designer: Liz Henning
Sound Designer: Lucy Cashion
Original Paintings: Maggie Genovese, Anne Genovese
Assistant Lighting Designer: Dominick Ehling
Photography: Joey Rumpell
Graphic Designer: Dottie Quick
Box Office Manager: Kristin Rion

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