Ben Gierhart, Jennifer Thalman Kepler, Laura Ellis & Samantha Watzek in Getting Out. Photo courtesy Looking for Lilith.
By Marsha Norman
Directed by Shannon Woolley Allison
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2016 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
We face many choices in life: some easy, some difficult. One choice we make can alter the rest of our lives by steering us into unchartered territory. Marsha Norman’s brilliant play Getting Out is about one woman’s effort to start over. Looking for Lilith’s production shines a light on a formerly incarcerated woman’s troubled choices and how she turns it all around.
Portraying one character at different ages, Samantha Watzek and Laura Ellis beautifully display Arlie/Arlene’s troubled past into a fully realized performance of a woman who must play the hand she’s been dealt. Arlie is a rebellious inmate, begging to be heard and yearning to be released from prison and circumstance, and Watzek’s performance is tough as nails and full of grit. Laura Ellis balances the character in her older, reformed years as Arlene. Subtly broken and fresh out of jail, Ellis presents vulnerability in her inmate’s re-entry to society as a tough girl transformed. Her performance gains momentum, providing an emotional punch in her “Arlie’s dead” speech, a moment that is sure to leave goosebumps in any audience member.
The parallels of Arlie/Arlene’s past and present provide some striking images within this particular production. Watzek meanders and mingles with case workers, security guards and other figures from her past both in and out of prison, while Ellis remains in her decrepit apartment attempting to assemble a new life, resulting in bold and synchronized performances from both actresses.
The choice’s Arlie/Arlene has made effects those around her as well. As Arlene’s mother, Karole Spangler throttles the tension between the two characters in a fierce performance. Ben Geirhart makes a lasting impression as the ever-present prison guard who berates and keeps a watchful eye on Arlie with a satisfying dose of condescension. Ben Unwin’s Carl, Arlie’s pimp, borders on outlandish cartoon, but gains sincere footing in the second act with devilish temptation and ramblings on a flawed social system. Eli Keel provides a link between Arlene’s past and present as harmless yet flirty, Bennie. Keel’s performance is driven by genuine good intentions and sympathy, which makes his eventual malicious attack on Arlie so striking.
I extend further kudos to Scott Davis for his scenic design and Typh Hainer Merwarth for her costume design. Davis has constructed a solitary set consisting of worn-through bed frames, dirty kitchenettes, and claustrophobic prison cells, providing a surrounding that is both simple and isolating. Merwarth’s costumes rely on greens and browns, which beautifully accentuate how much in Arlie/Arlene’s life has changed and how much remains the same. With such a distinct color palette, the appearance of Ruby, another former convict (played with great vigor by Jennifer Thalman Kepler) in a yellow and blue dress is most striking. In Arlene’s world of earthy tones, Ruby’s presence in cool colors gives a glimmer of hope, change. and the chance to move on.
May 19-21, 23, 26-28 @ 7:30 pm
May 28 @ 2:00 pm
Tickets prices: $20 for General Admission, $15 for students and seniors; $10 for Community Night on Monday, May 23rd.
Looking for Lilith
at Uof L Theater Arts
2314 S. Floyd Street.
Louisville, KY 40203
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!