REVIEW: This Wide Night

Last Sunday night, multi-platinum selling, 18-time-Grammy winning Adele stopped mid-song, took a moment, and began again.  Once she did, she gave perhaps her most triumphant performance ever. The support she received from the live audience, the television viewer, and the entire Internet was monumental.

We – and I do mean the collective audience at tonight’s opening performance of THIS WIDE NIGHT at the Clifton Performance Theatre – experienced something similar.  Dale Hodges, a beloved stage veteran, had a rare moment mid-scene where she forgot her lines.  Rather than fake it and make things worse, she humbly asked for a break to compose herself.  When she returned, she had her script in hand.  The act continued, the audience unanimously rooting for her.

When she returned to the stage to begin Act Two, she apologized.  She offered refunds.  She expressed regret and sympathy for her partner, Miranda McGee, who quickly responded (as only she could), “Stop being a c*&#, Dale.” The audience erupted.  The show continued.  And the two received a well-deserved rousing ovation at the end of the play.

THIS WIDE NIGHT, written by Chloe Moss, tells the story of two former cellmates who forged a deep friendship while inside.  So deep, in fact, that “Lorraine” (Hodges) and “Marie” (McGee) function better as a duo – even on the outside.  The script is slow-moving, taking its time to establish the dynamics between these two characters, exploring their pain and difficulty dealing with the realities of their past and present.  But the path playwright Moss takes us on has so much realness that we’re taken in, grateful to be given a window into this bond.

A show like this requires a palpable level of chemistry.  McGee and Hodges have that rapport with one another.  McGee is at her best when she’s honest, playing women who are self-conscious, awkward, or broken.  “Marie,” in her hands, is carrying a level of pain that – while never blatantly explored in the script – shows through in her mannerisms and her words.  Or lack thereof.  She’s tough, but not.  She’s scared, but takes risks. She’s protective, but needs protection.  McGee finds new layers throughout the ninety-minute plus production.

Hodges, on the other hand, possesses a quiet elegance on stage that mesmerizes.  “Lorraine,” an older woman who paid penance for murder, sports a short bob hairdo, thick glasses, and a giddy affection for the son she hopes to get to know now that she’s free. She’s not sophisticated and she’s certainly not very well put-together.  Yet, underlying all of that messiness, is a sense of British loveliness.  Hodges gives her breath – and depth.

Together, their energy is tangible, almost literally.  As they play the cozy space on Ludlow Avenue, the actors are mere feet – sometimes inches – away from the audience.  There’s nowhere to hide.  There are no tricks to mask the rawness of the acting. It’s perhaps the most fearsome theatre to play in and often the most exciting one to sit in.  Director Kevin Crowley keeps the two of them moving in the space, sometimes quite physically with one another, and the end-result is dramatic magic.

Flawless shows rarely happen in live theatre; that would be boring.  Hodges humanness, her authenticity, and her vulnerability only serve to remind us the high-wire act that is live performance.  But it’s her undeniable grace that shone most brightly.

THIS WIDE NIGHT is emotionally touching and brilliantly acted.  So much that it may need to be seen more than once to fully appreciate the nuance and depth of the script and the dynamic work between these two talented actresses.  I highly recommend it.

THIS WIDE NIGHT will run through March 4th at the Clifton Performance Theatre at 404 Ludlow Avenue in Clifton.  Click here for more information.