"Riders to the Sea" follows a small Irish family on the night the last man of their family, as all the men before him, dies at seas. "Lizabeth" is an operatic exploration into the life and motivations of Lizzie Bordon, the infamous 19th century woman who allegedly killed off her father and stepmother with an ax.
It is completely possible that the general confusion of the audience at "Riders to the Sea" may be coloring this section of the review. But, let it be known, the Irish one-act that starts off the evening is actually shown in two ways. The first half is the non-musical play by J.M. Synge, and, immediately after, the actresses of the piece switch roles, and the operatic version by Ralph Vaughan Williams begins.
While it is interesting to see the two version put side by side, and even more exciting to see a company willing to take the risk, the two versions are a) virtually identical in terms of lines and b) virtually identical in forms of staging. The effect, instead of having one piece illuminate the other's, or show different aspects of certain revelations, is more watching one show and then watching it again, this time with music.
However, while the concept and staging seems a bit off, the performances by the various leads stand strong. Laurie Klatscher, Tressa Glover and Brandi Welle deliver an honest portrayal of women who have lost everything only to find the cliff where they can push off more. While Mary Beth Sederburg, Gail Novak Mosites and Leah Edmondson Dyer sing their way through the journey with grace and amazing voices.
However, the real meat of the night comes in the second act with the short opera "Lizabeth". While "Rider's to the Sea" features no suprises or changes between the two version, "Lizabeth" shows off the staging prowess of director Gregory Lehane. "Lizabeth" shows not only the murderess Lizzie, but her elder and younger version, showing all sides of her split psyche at once.
Anna Signer as Lizabeth, the eldest, is refined, friendly and creepily engaging as a woman who has spent the majority of her life trying to escape her own name. Is she caught in a web of self-delusion? Dementia? Is she using one to cope with the other? Jillian K. Marini as Young Lizzie captures the stubborn face and physical body of Lizzie's young, frustrated side. And, rounding out the gruesome trifecta, Erica Olden plays the Lizzie that is pushed to the brink as a woman, due to stress and affection that has always been just out of reach, finally breaks.
As always, the live orchestra of Microscopic is a perfect addition to the evening, never overpowering of the actors and beautifully underscoring both selections with melodies that uplift or haunt you long after the show is over. Again, Microscopic Opera provides a night of theatre that is unique and bloody good.
Tickets to "Riders to teh Sea & Lizabeth" can be purchsed here: http://microscopicopera.org/Home.html
- The Eponymous Theatre critic enjoys lambasting* with olive oil and oregano.
*Editor Correction: I believe the term is "Lamb Basting". If you want people to know you're a chef, just write it.