The Venus Theatre production of Looking for the Pony made me cry. And I was amazed as I looked around and saw the audience—men and women—wiping their eyes. Playwright Andrea Lepcio took a personal experience—her sister’s pragmatic fight with breast cancer—and created a beautifully written, humorous, moving work. If you’re looking for a night of good theatre complete with a marvelous story and fine acting, go see this play.
While working up the nerve to pursue a graduate degree and establish herself as a writer, Oisie (Rose McConnell) learns her older sister Lauren (Rebecca Herron) has breast cancer. Lauren is a woman has a demanding job, kids with extracurricular activities, and she’s always embarking on new projects—all aimed at beautifying and improving the world–yet she’s determined to go on with her life and make the cancer an afterthought. She also pushes Oisie to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, always telling her “I’m okay…you go write.”
While the story is playwright Lepcio’s autobiographical piece, it is clear that director Catherine Tripp embraced this script with both arms and made it her own. The flashbacks are logical and clear, and as the events of Lauren and Oisie’s lives warn of heartbreak, her sense of how this should be conveyed results in graceful poignancy.
Herron and McConnell are mesmerizing as the two sisters. It’s like watching a tennis match between Venus and Serena Williams. Lauren and Oisie are both strong, and the actors are engaging as they draw us into their world, showing us how their roles in the sisterly structure were established when they were little girls.
These two women are such good actors, and their performances transcend the script. Herron and McConnell are sisters, and anyone who has a sibling will be reminded—while watching these two push and pull on the stage—of the affection, the fun times, the fights and the loneliness that arises when you can’t hang out together anymore.
“Amend the goal” Lauren tells Oisie, when she is overwhelmed by the demands of an intense writing mentor (Grant Cloyd). Playing several roles, including a wig maker, Saul—an elderly client of Lauren’s, a flight attendant and a Rabbi, Cloyd is the only male in the play, and he does a wonderful job in the supporting roles. Like a chameleon, one minute he’s the snarky and competitive Darryl, who is seeking a prestigious writing award that Oisie is going for, and a minute later he’s the bent-over octogenarian Saul, flirting with Lauren.
Lauren continues to encourage her sister, even as the cancer begins to undermine her sunny optimism. Oisie tells her sister she should stop trying to be superwoman. Her somewhat scattered assistant (Louise Schlegel), a woman given to tears and wide-eyed bewilderment about everything, admires Lauren deeply. Schlegel, the other ensemble cast member is fantastic in her other roles as well – Oisie’s book publisher, a rep for an insurance company, a nurse and an airline passenger.
Even as time is running out for the sisters, Lauren still sees that there is an abundance of minutes to create value and enjoy a dear friend or a loved one, if you are awake and aware. She tells her sister “there are 1440 minutes in every day, and no one can take that away from you.” It’s amazing when you meet a character in a play, and find yourself honored to be in that person’s presence for the two hours the show runs. Looking for the Pony was that kind of experience—enriching, memorable, and powerful enough to serve as reminder to appreciate the people in your life now.
Looking for the Pony
By Andrea Lepcio
Directed by Catherine Tripp
Produced by Deborah Randall
Reviewed by Carol Chastang