I would imagine that Richard Hess, the director of HER NAKED SKIN, was really hopeful when he selected this piece for 2017. It seemed to many that we would have our first female President and this piece would seem a charming, rear-view mirror look at the plight of women in our culture. But things change.
One might expect that in light of certain political events, this play would be directed with guns blazing, all out fury. You’d assume that this generation of actors would display hefty amounts of passion, too. But this production lacked any such sizzle.
Producing any play in the sizeable Patricia Corbett Theatre is daunting. And even though this play is billed as a piece about suffragettes, I’d argue that it’s really a relationship play with a minor back story about the right to vote. Lady Celia Cain (Michaela Tropenano) goes to jail for her part in protesting the women’s right to vote. There she meets the younger Eve Douglas (Julia Netzler) and eventually they fall in love. Problem is, Cain is married to Isaac Hickox-Young’s character. And despite this torrid love affair and difficult marital end, I didn’t feel a thing.
The script by Rebecca Lenkiewicz gives us little reason to root for most of the characters, making it even more important that we feel genuine passion from all on stage. Emotion comes in short spurts and isn’t sustained throughout. Perhaps the set changes, which slow down the pace of the piece, also made it difficult for the actors to fully invest. Maybe it was the accents and dialects – none of which seemed to match the others – that made it more difficult to emote. Or perhaps they didn’t understand the rather cumbersome, complicated story. I know I didn’t.
The best moments come from bit players, like Annie Grove’s stuttering nurse and Carter LaCava’s Freddie, who maximize their incredibly minimal involvement. Isaac Hickok-Young gives a good go of it, but his character is so thinly written that again we’re not invested in his pain. Rupert Spraul livens things up in Act Two as an amorous bellboy, who doesn’t suffer Lady Cain lightly.
I wonder how this one would have played in the black box. Or if Hilary had won. As it is, though it’s a visually interesting, ambitious production with a large cast and good technical support.
Up next for CCM Acting is TRANSMIGRATION, a festival of student-created and produced work in early March. Tickets are free. Click here for more information.