Phillip Taratula & Jeff Biehl in Wellesley Girl. Photo by Bill Brymer.
By Brendan Pelsue
Directed by Lee Sunday Evans
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2016 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
To say we live in times of uncertainty and terror would be a gross understatement. Consider the protests, riots, crippling strain on resources, and petty political corruption worldwide. In Brendan Pelsue’s dark satire, Wellesley Girl, it is the year 2465 and the United States exists in a state of disarray from mistakes of the past. What was once the greatest nation is now a stripped down colony of four towns where clean water is limited, freedom is restricted, and survival could result in dire consequences.
Director Lee Sunday Evans’ treatment of the piece is nearly cinematic. He stages the scenes using a turn table to create an image of how each person is effected by the other’s actions. With each transition we are reminded of the humanistic elements in an otherwise harsh, cruel, apocalyptic allegory. The scenery for this staging is simple yet purposeful. The giant bare wall with oversize doors serves as a protective barrier at times, and other times, a prison wall keeping the characters enclosed from the dangers on the other side. Later, simple set pieces are brought in to suggest a United States from a time gone by.
The cast of characters fulfills metaphorical components of this tragic tale. The key to this ensemble’s strength is not only the constant friction but also the looming fear that they each try to battle within themselves. Kelly McAndrew is a strong lead as Marie, a survivor who has seen the worst of the deteriorating country around her. McAndrew is captivating in her struggle to keep her family alive and keep her nation from the brink of destruction. Pun Bandhu plays Marie’s reluctant husband, Max, with great hesitancy and careful footing in his actions. Bandhu does well to bring to light his struggle with important issues facing his country. Rachel Leslie plays the Chief Executive, Garth, with courage and a distance that resonates with our understanding of many national leaders. Leslie handles her character’s involvement in a fading love triangle with a delicate balance, one that is perilously close to tipping over.
The supporting cast is simply superb in this show that left me wanting more. Lynda Gravatt is wise and quick-witted as one must be as the only member of the Supreme Court. Barney O’Hanlon plays Hank, a lovable robot with feelings. O’Hanlon provides a great physical performance reminiscent of Steel Hammer from the Humana Festival in 2014. Phillip Taratula as RJ plays well with opposing citizen Scott, played by Jeff Biehl. Their debates are beautifully orchestrated as they talk and yell at and over each other while never reaching a resolution. Biehl’s delivery is unstoppable as he urges his country to take action; with each beat Biehl’s energy skyrockets to massive levels resembling certain modern day presidential candidates. Taratula’s first line, My fellow Americans, what is going on?” resonates with the current state of affairs and earned abundant laughs.
When the lights came up for intermission, the patron sitting behind me said: “It’s like we’re watching the news.” After considering the play’s reflection of concepts of border control, limited natural resources, and polarization on every issue, I, laughingly, have to agree with this statement.
March 18 – April 10, 2016
Part of the 40th Humana Festival of New American Plays
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for Leo Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!