Bust is a Smash at the Empty Space
Seattle's most nomadic mid-size theatre company, the Empty Space (they've had at least four homes in the 15 years since this writer came to Seattle, and several before) has launched its first season in its new abode, the brand new Lee Center at Seattle University. Space favorite Lauren Weedman, star of such past solo shows as Amsterdam as well as a stellar player in the first incarnation of Wuthering! Heights! The! Musical! is positively incandescent in Bust, her one-woman exploration of her own work as a volunteer advocate in an L.A. women's jail.
Director Allison Narver has successfully aided the actress/writer in this tour-de-force. Much of Bust is very, very, funny; some of it is poignant; and it whizzes by in a glimmer. Weedman amazes with the ability to suggest in a limited space in time, the entire personas of the women (and a few men) she worked with in the jail. Her time spent with the prisoners is fairly seamlessly juxtaposed with her personal experiences, particularly a misfired attempt to reap financial rewards by recounting her college era moral transgression (documented in her solo show Wreckage) to a women's magazine, which results in a terrible backlash against her. But there is no self pity in this show, no more than she takes pity on the women in the prison. By presenting their plight with utmost simplicity, they become more real and less caricatured. Weedman's energy is unflagging and contagious, and her ability to cleanly jump back and forth between characters is most remarkable. She is not presented as a savior to those she works with, but she does sometimes make their lives, and perhaps her own, a bit better in the process.
As for the Space's new space at Seattle U? It is a very versatile space, a black box really, with a catwalk. Given the company's propensity for making each of their productions very individual, it seems an ideal fit, for Bust scenic designer Carol Wolfe Clay's wide open steel and concrete playing space meshes perfectly with Jessica Trundy's scene-defining lighting and Mark Nichols' gritty sound design. Kudos to all, and welcome back to Capitol Hill, Empty Space!
Bust runs through August 5th at the Empty Space in Lee Center, 901 12th Avenue. Visit www.emptyspace.org online for more information.