Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Freak
Urbanite Theatre
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of Bark! The Musical and The Color Purple


Ellie McCaw and Summer Dawn Wallace
Photo by Cliff Roles
Urbanite Theatre was launched with Chicken Shop by English Playwright Anna Jordan, so what better way to begin their second season (but first fall/winter season) than another play by the same author, Freak. With a mission to present more modern, edgier work than other local companies, I expected that at some time I would find one of their productions uncomfortable, and that time is right now.

Freak breaks down into three sections: the first featuring two women, one older, one younger, reveal in monologues their inner feelings as they each move toward a sexual plateau; the second involves their experiences during that plateau; and the last as the audience finally learns how they are related to each other and they help each other process what they have gone through and begin to move forward. The first section is the one that pulled me way out of my comfort zone as the feelings that lead each woman toward their experience is quite sexually graphic. The second section is probably even more sexually graphic, but not in a way that was as disquieting for me, and the ending calms things down quite a bit—with a lot to say. Having now seen two of Ms. Jordan's works, I think she is a playwright to watch and I hope to get the opportunity to see more of her work.

One of Urbanite's strengths in their introductory summer season was the quality of the acting and directing, and this production continues at the same high level. Summer Dawn Wallace, one of the founding members, makes her acting debut with the company as Georgie, the older of the two women, and she delivers a superb performance. Ms. Jordan has written a tour de force part and Ms. Wallace delivers in every single way. Her Georgie is sexually yearning in the opening, sexually adventuresome in the second part, and captures the emotions that come after in the third part. Ellie McCaw, a 19-year-old student at Booker High School (which has a performing arts magnet program), gives a very brave performance as a fifteen-year-old undergoing her first sexual experiences and then trying to process the emotional aftermath. Her performance is emotionally vulnerable.

Freak is brilliantly directed by V. Craig Heidenreich. Every single piece of this production is brilliantly realized, especially the acting as discussed above. Settings by Kirk V. Hughes, exposed to the audience as they enter, take a while to process. The main element is at the rear of the playing area, a large wall full of women's possessions, much of it part of their sexual being. This plus a few smaller pieces at the entrance heighten the experience of attending this production. Costumes by Becki Leigh are effective, and lighting by Ryan Finzelber effectively helps the audience focus where they should.

Seeing this production play was an unsettling experience for me, certainly challenging and most definitely worthwhile. Be advised of the raw sexual material, but this is absolutely going to be a production that I remember as the season progresses.

Urbanite Theatre presents Freak through November 15, 2015, at 1487 2nd St. Sarasota. Visit www.urbanitetheatre.com for more information.

Cast:
Leah: Ellie McCaw
Georgie: Summer Dawn Wallace*
*Member of Actor's Equity Association

Production Team:
V Craig Heidenreich: Director
Brendan Ragan: Co Artistic Director
Amanda LaForge: Stage Manager
Seth Graham: technical Director
Kirk V. Hughes: Scenic Designer
Becki Leigh: Costume Designer
Ryan Finzelber: Lighting Designers
Rew Tippin: Sound Designer
Daniel Kelly: Property Master
Leah Verier-Dunn: Dance Coach
Delaney Jane and Katie Svedman: Interns
Tess Hogan*: Vocal Coach

--William S. Oser


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