Refractions in a golden eye

She Says

By Bara Swain
Directed by Joseph Massa
Presented by the Turnip Theatre Co.
145 West 46th Street (768-4016)
Equity showcase (closes May 1)
Review by Doug DeVita

There is a psychoanalytic theory proposing that the people who populate our dreams are just different aspects of ourselves.

A certain dreamlike quality pervaded Bara Swain's She Says, this year's presentation in Turnip Theatre's Featured Artist Series. Beautiful, surreal images floated above the stage, sometimes in complete accord with the moment, sometimes jarringly at odds as five women, named for the different colors of the human spirit, explored the fears and obstacles that need to be overcome in order to attain happiness.

There were eloquent passages as well as a few funny observations in Ms. Swain's writing, but as a whole She Says was too lightweight for the drama of deep emotion it wanted to be. As the characters individually explored one aspect each of the major life issues at hand, they inspired the uncomfortable feeling of peering into a private session with Ms. Swain and her therapist. The line between drama and trauma was not clearly delineated, resulting in a work that threatened to collapse under the weight of its own pretense.

Director Joseph Massa staged this talkfest with an uncommon grace, giving the material a highly stylized production of almost unbearable visual beauty. Under his expert guidance, all five performers gave nuanced, haunting performances, particularly Stephanie Martini as Ms. Black and Myla Pitt as Ms. Red. Martini's anger and pain over the loss of her husband were excruciating and genuinely moving, while Pitt's symbolic castration of the boyfriend who dumped her was an epiphany of dizzying, malicious glee.

The exquisite good taste extended to Nicole Eberhardt's chic black costumes (with corresponding color accessories), Tornado Productions' multi-level, raked set and particularly luminous lighting, the original music by Jimmy Papoulis, and the clear, professional-quality sound design (Ms. Eberhardt).

The Turnip Theatre, dedicated to the development and production of original plays, is to be commended for lavishing such high-caliber attention on emerging artists. If the material may have been questionable, the commitment to it was not, and that in itself is the very definition of professionalism.

(Also featuring Lenni Benicaso, Gloria Falzer, and Beth Fischer.)
Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 1999 Doug DeVita