3/4 A Mass For St. Vivian — Theatre Alliance
By Ronnie Ruff
It wasn’t night time when I attended 3/4 A Mass For St. Vivian. It was a wonderful Saturday afternoon, really warm outside, a bit of a breeze blowing. Inside the H Street Playhouse it was that purple haze of dusk, the moon clear and bright, a wonderful story is being told on a gray shingled roof that has been constructed in the black box space
3/4 A Mass For St. Vivian is a story of friendship and eventual truthfulness, growing up fast and getting all the wiser for it. How wise can one be at the young age of seventeen? That, my friends is how old Phoebe Rusch, the playwright responsible for this very exciting piece of theatre is at present — she was fifteen when she wrote it.
Emily (Marybeth Fritzky), an import from the Midwest, arrives in the big city to tell this story of two young women that are nothing alike but have the ability to communicate their feelings and share their fears and eventually secrets. Emily is the bookish one, conservative yet looking to explore her limits and the new world that surrounds her. Vivian (Nora Woolley) is a free spirit, flashing the peace sign with that huge smile — she holds inside her the tangled feelings of her own demise. She is living her young life at a breakneck pace, not wanting to miss out on anything even the least bit worthwhile. Both young women learn there is far more to life than what they previously had thought. Growing up in the mid seventies myself, I can say being a teenager was difficult at best and Miss Rusch captures many of the insecure feelings and much of the out of control culture of those times that are still etched in my memory today.
Paul-Douglas Michnewicz’s direction is refreshing and without fault throughout the eighty minute production. Ms. Fritzky and Ms. Woolley are delightful, entirely enveloped in their roles, they leave us with that nice feeling inside that comes from seeing a play that just feels right. The interaction between the two always seems natural and unforced almost as if they were really close friends. The staging was simple yet imaginative, a perfect match for such an intimate yet accessible story. Soft lighting with colorful shadows wash over the rooftop stage creating a setting that seemed like home.
It is a brave company that starts off its season with a play by a seventeen year old playwright albeit an award winning one, Jeremy Skidmore shows the depth of his artistic vision and his willingness to take risks by staging this production of 3/4 A Mass For St. Vivian. There is little doubt why Arena Stage picked Theater Alliance as the smaller company they wish to support with a newly announced mentoring program that will be a huge help to this small company. Refreshing and simply brilliant writing by an award winning playwright along with quality direction and spirited acting make this a production you should not miss. The show has been extended and it is suggested to buy your tickets right away!