The last frontier

A Period Piece

Written and directed by Rachel Kerr
Amity Hill Foundation & Karma Productions
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

With all the recent talk about presidential semen and "distinguishing features," the last taboos on what is considered an appropriate topic for public discourse seem to have been ditched. So this may be the perfect time for a play like A Period Piece, which is subtitled "a black comedy which follows the menstrual cycle." Unlike all the reporting about Mr. Clinton's peccadilloes, however, this unusual show is entirely discreet. There's no graphic or unseemly dialogue; no one, in fact, mutters any words like "cramps," "bloating," "hormones," or even "menstruation."

A Period Piece instead presents the womanly cycle in historical and mythological contexts. And it is about the cycle, not just those four or five days a month that usually get all the attention. Each of the four scenes in A Period Piece depicts a week in the cycle and is set in a different time and place in history (such as the Jazz Age and a 1930s German cabaret). Some dialogue is repeated throughout the play, but the varying moods and scenarios alter its meaning from scene to scene. The dialogue consists primarily of adages, literary quotations, and advice recited by the characters. Through these statements and the actors' intonation when saying them-along with costume changes and background music-A Period Piece creator Rachel Kerr conveys the physical and emotional phases of a woman's cycle that a stand-up comedian would probably describe in much blunter terms. This short play is definitely not for all tastes, but for an offbeat piece of quasi-performance art, it's refreshingly animated and aesthetic.

The play's appeal lay largely in the seven actresses-Kerr, Alexandria Hunter, Maggie Runfola, Donna Jean Fogel, Esther Canata, Anne-Elise Hagen and Alexandra McHale-who portrayed leading ladies of Greek mythology. Their rapport and diction were excellent, and the women were expressive and charming as both actors and dancers. There wasn't a Barbie Doll figure among them, but they formed a beautiful ensemble. The costumes looked great on the actresses and helped set the tone for each scene (no one was credited as costume designer).

Music from Offenbach to Porter was used effectively in A Period Piece to underscore the moods and accompany the dance numbers. The set and staging-areverse theater-in-the-round, wherein the action moved around the audience-were also clever. Without these production qualities and the talented cast, this esoteric material and its more bizarre elements (such as a transvestite in thong underwear) may have been insufferable. But for those with an open mind about theater and 50 minutes to spare, it made for an interesting experience.

(Also featuring Cherry Coke and Daniel M. Huber. Set, Kristin Pondy, Judith Ribicoff, Rachel Kerr & Karma Productions; Lighting, Graeme McDonnell.)
Box Score:

Writing: 1
Acting: 2
Directing 1
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1
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Copyright 1998 Adrienne Onofri