Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Also see Stephanie's review of Chapatti
Shirley (Jessica Osbourne) inhabits her "full-fit" kitchen and makes her husband's supper as she tells us about her life, Joe, the children, and her friend Jane, who has just invited Shirley to join her on a vacation in Greece. She talks to the wall and the audience as she convinces herself to stay or go. Wine helps to lubricate Shirley's feelings and reminiscences while she makes a mental pro-and-con list. In just two funny and charming scenes we get a sense of a prosaic life and her longing to leave it.
It's not easy to hold the audience in one's pretty little hand for two hours, but Osbourne is irresistible. Her giggle gets to you. So does her beauty coupled with wildly curly hair, workaday apron, and sparkly boots. The costume gives us a glimpse of her ambivalence about who she is. The audience is never undecided about Shirley's heart, however, for she is true to herself and open to adventure. It takes versatility and a warm understanding of human emotion to be funny, pensive, daring, sexy, resigned, and decisive all at once. But aren't we all, Osbourne seems to say. You'll want to have a glass of wine with her. (And then you'll ask for her autograph.)
A prolific local actress once told me that even a one-person play needs a good director. Colleen McClure fills the bill with sensitive guidance attuned to the nuances of the monologue. She and Osbourne are presenting Shirley Valentine as the inaugural production of their new troupe, West End Productions, from which, presumably, we will enjoy lots of acting in authentic British accents.
They have hand-picked some good local talent to run the show, too. For instance, I didn't want to leave Ryan Jason Cook's cozy kitchen, Greece be damned. His deft touch and attention to detail never fail to set the scene.
As for the play itself, some of the issues bugging Shirley echo a time before cell phones and Uber. Shirley Valentine premiered in 1986, and won 1988 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Play and Best Actress, and a 1989 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. The Liverpudlian slanguage (called Scouser) is explained in a helpful glossary compiled by McClure in the program. None of these things render Shirley Valentine an anachronism because her concerns still resonate, especially with women. Bring your BFFs.
Through March 6, 2016, Friday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2 pm; Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill, 3011 Monte Vista Blvd. NE, (505) 699-8729, westendproductions.org.