Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Escaped Alone
Signature Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Fences and School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play

Valerie Leonard, Helen Hedman, Catherine Flye,
and Brigid Cleary

Photo by Margot Schulman
British playwright Caryl Churchill tells stories in an elliptical way, leaving audiences to make connections and determine the message—or if there is one. Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, has brought together four exemplary Washington area actresses and director Holly Twyford, heading an all-female production team, for a haunting production of Churchill's 2016 play Escaped Alone.

Scenic designer Paige Hathaway has created a diorama-like set in the small ARK Theatre: the back of a house, a small enclosed garden, flower beds beside ivy growing on a wall, a table and a few chairs, all bordered inside a wooden proscenium. Three friends—Lena (Brigid Cleary), Vi (Catherine Flye), and Sally (Helen Hedman)—drink tea and chat in broken phrases random-sounding words that sometimes coalesce into sentences. They seem to speak past each other most of the time but always seem to hear each other.

The action begins when a neighbor, Mrs. Jarrett (Valerie Leonard), stops in to join them. She doesn't know the other women's stories and periodically she breaks the fourth wall (more specifically, draws a curtain across the garden set as the other women freeze in place) to recount, in incisive detail, stories of apocalyptic destruction with both human and natural causes. The effect is of a discordant strain in the elegant string music of Victoria Deiorio's sound design, an unacknowledged danger ahead.

That isn't to say the friends don't have their own dramas. Their shared experiences include death, trauma, crippling phobias, and depression, but through it all the sense that they can rely on each other. At one point they even sing and dance.

While Leonard's speeches are the most openly shocking, Flye shines as she displays emotions ranging from despair to vivid joy. Along with Hedman, whose character has her own epiphany, and the quieter, sadder Cleary, they form a powerful ensemble.

The play itself runs just 55 minutes, but audiences have the opportunity after each performance to gather at tables in the lobby, drink tea, eat cookies, and enter into structured conversations about what meaning they gleaned from it.

Signature Theatre
Escaped Alone
September 24th - November 3rd, 2019
By Caryl Churchill
Lena: Brigid Cleary
Vi: Catherine Flye
Sally: Helen Hedman
Mrs. Jarrett: Valerie Leonard
Directed by Holly Twyford
ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or