Knockout performances, a sumptuous physical production, and sensitive direction were what distinguished Her Sonoma Story, a trilogy of short plays by David DeWitt that traces the experiences of six disparate women at different times of the same rainy day in Sonoma County, California.
Lavish by any standard, the work of the designers was outstanding, from Andrew Donovan's series of superbly detailed settings, Nicole Press's softly realistic lighting, and the ever-present but subtle sound design by Scott Hittleman to the uncredited but attractively appropriate costuming. Peter DeMaio directed with a sure hand, and if De Witt's contribution was a bit uneven, the production itself flowed with moody precision, all of its pieces matching and combining to become one impressive whole.
Easily the best of the evening was the first act, She Has Character, in which Norah, a depressed yoga instructor who lives in the shadow of a famous man, challenges Robyn, a strong-willed young reporter who has inadvertently made public the frustrated woman's secrets. The deeply focused writing was aided and abetted by the by the incomparable Anna Ewing Bull as the unfulfilled Norah, and the snippy but compelling Carla Tassara as Robyn. Bull's every gesture was so grounded in truth that it was impossible not to feel every bit of the pain, joy, certainty, and insecurity that made up Norah's life, and she infused the piece with a sad but irresistible glow.
The other two pieces, She's at Home, and She Finds Her, were less successful but benefited from the direction and performances. She's at Home, in which a secretive woman living in a trailer park (Debra Kay Anderson in a performance of simmering wariness) is desperate to conceal her life, and an abused biker chick (the drolly amusing Michele Harris) who desperately wants to share the intimate details of hers, contained its share of laugh-out-loud moments countered by well-aimed jabs at class warfare, but suffered from trite subject matter. She Finds Her got downright icky as a young lesbian woman finds and seduces the woman who served as her babysitter. Even though the formidable Jane Petrov and Susan Damante Shaw gave it all the pungent power they had at their disposal, it all got a little too sweet and precious for words, especially the neatly tied up fairy-tale ending, an ending of both questionable morality and veracity.
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Copyright 2003 Doug DeVita