Oh, What Can’t A Woman Do? Very little, according to writer and performer Hilary Morrow. Her drama up at Capital Fringe, a one-woman historical fiction based on famed Commedia dell’arte actress and writer Isabella Andreini, is delightfully staged and decidedly high brow.
Under the swift direction of Cara Gabriel, Morrow brings Andreini to life- and oh what a life she had! The piece imagines Andreini from her early childhood, watching her father perform with Compagnia dei Comici Gelosi, through her acting career, writing explorations, marriage, motherhood, and ultimately to her deathbed.
From her command of the stage to her essays criticizing sexist society, Andreini was a powerhouse, and Morrow plays her as such. Her accent is inconsistent, but her bold gestures and the glint in her eyes when she gets a new idea make it more than forgivable. Morrow has big, expressive baby blues, which show Andreini’s fear, strength, excitement, and chagrin.
“Am I nothing but my looks?” Morrow asks, forlorn. The audience sees Andreini struggle as she urges others to see the inequalities of the world. Andreini fought to be taken seriously, to have control of her theatre company, to have her work published, and to have her performances and writings respected in the same manor that any man’s would have been. Morrow shows great conviction and resolve as she takes on those fights in her performance.
Oh, What Can’t A Woman Do?
by Hilary Morrow
at Bedroom – Fort Fringe
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
And the piece can get a little goofy, with Morrow’s Andreini hopping on stage one moment and backstage the next, but Gabriel has done a fine job of sculpting the highly stylized movements and characters into neat, digestible vignettes. The stakes are unwaveringly high, and Morrow maintains good pacing and energy throughout the hour long performance. Snippets of Commedia dell’arte also add to the show’s stylized feel. One sequence in which Morrow takes on three different commedia archetypes shows her deftness for the technique, though the scene itself did not serve to further the plot. Likewise, the play showcases Morrow’s rich timbred voice when she sings a chunk of an aria at center stage, but it does little for the play.
Period and period style music accents the piece with low driving base and springy woodwinds. Sound Designer Travis Bozeman well distinguishes the various spheres of Andreini’s life as he cuts from song to song.
This show is certainly not the one for anyone who begrudges going to the theatre, but it is a treat for the Commedia dell’arte aficionados or classical theatre buffs. Morrow’s performance is charismatic and strong, and Andreini’s life and work are truly compelling.