Communion and Bulletins from Fatland
by Debbie Minter Jackson
There’s something to be said about being “the nation’s oldest continuing women’s theater”– that’s a lot of keeping power. Horizons Theatre celebrates its thirtieth season with “Still Going Solo,” a collage of solo pieces reflecting the company’s distinctive mission, talent, and innovative perspective. The two intriguing pieces that I saw, Communion and Bulletins from Fatland, reflect the company’s keeping power at its finest, and I’m looking forward to the other two shows shown in repertory –Deep Thoughts and Dark Chocolate by Terri Allen, and Frida Vice-Versa co-written by Marian Licha and R. Dennis Green.
Vanessa Thomas depicts various women dealing with aspects of love, spirituality and sexuality in Communion, that she co-wrote with Kumani Gantt. From her floating graceful entrance from the back of the house to her sensual movements throughout, Thomas is a mesmerizing and enchantingly natural goddess of life and love. “I’ve loved you between the shadow and my soul” she intones in poetry that undulates and captivates as much as she does. While it starts off with an atmospheric, coffee-house “spoken word,” kind of style, it quickly veers into solid theater territory through its clear depiction of character and precise direction by Leslie Jacobson. The vignettes blend humor and sensuality but also contain their share of artistry and depth. Along with a recurring image of being cut “from breast to bone,” the piece describes a harrowing passage of violence against a woman while referring to various perpetrators in one flowing sequence-Nazis, Contras, Tutsis-all listed as part of one event with chilling effect. The communion ritual using water and actual fragrant rose petals becomes the calming and even healing conclusion.
Caron Anton is the draw for Bulletins from Fatlands by Shelley Herman Gillon. Just when you thought you couldn’t deal with yet another image depraved portrayal of women, (I’m still recuperating from Neil Labute’s Fat Pig at Studio), here comes an eclectic collection delivered with fun, enthusiasm, and a twinkle in her eye by the one and only Ms. Anton. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen her take the stage, and watching her inhabit the various characters in the intimate Warehouse space is a treat. Designer Valerie St. Pierce Smith, who also designed the sensual Communion outfit, orchestrated the visuals, where an item for each character hangs along the back wall for Ms. Anton’s selection– from a Sister’s habit to cell phone case to, yes, a sumo wrestler’s belt. Caron Anton has a quiet, effortless approach to her characters, and what might be missed in a range of temperament is balanced by an undergirding of solid control and unwavering commitment to the character beneath the surface. She is simply believable whether portraying a young nun effusively describing the voluptuous female form, an English commoner with visions of being a crossing guard, a novice yogi, or a well-heeled mother with steely determination who guides her chubby daughter on how to purge.
Admittedly, the company has a special fondness in my heart. I remember being drawn to its mission and focus when I moved here in the early 1990’s and seeing A, My Name is Alice, along with creative compilations of historical women interacting and sharing experiences. Little did I know that we would both still be here these years later. Opening the season with a series of solo performances reflects the company’s ongoing evolution in showcasing women’s experiences. Leslie Jacobson, founder and artistic director says it best in her notes, “in addition to being a deeply personal artistic endeavor for the performer, a solo performance … brings the audience into her world by directly addressing and connecting with them…We couldn’t think of a stronger way to start our fourth decade of bringing truly creative works from a woman’s perspective o the stage.”
The upcoming season includes And the Rest is Silence which explores the inner thoughts and emotions of some of Shakespeare’s women characters who remain silent at critical moments, and a world premiere of The Mother/Daughter Project. What a line-up to what hopefully is a successful launching of the next thirty years for Horizons Theatre.
Still Going Solo runs in repertory November 3- December 3rd at The Warehouse Theater, 1021 7th Street, Washington, DC Tickets: $20, or a 2 show package for $35.. For the schedule and box office, go to www.horizonstheatre.org. (703) 391-2929