My Take: 'Actually' At TheaterWorks At Wadsworth Atheneum
The show: “Actually” by Anne Ziegler
What makes it special?: Second TheaterWorks production at the Wadsworth Atheneum while the TheaterWorks building is being renovated. Also the TW debut of the theater’s producing associate Taneisha Duggan
What’s it about? Two emotionally stressed college freshmen meet, flirt and play but when things become too intense for one of them, and sex turns into something more, events spin out of control.
Sounds like he said/she said.: Precisely — and if you think you know where this may be going guess again. You’ll find yourself enraged, confused, sympathetic, frustrated and saddened by each and every turn of events and as each new detail of character emerges. It also makes you feel for college kids today navigating this new psycho-sexual highway.
Tom (Ronald Emile) and Amber (Arielle Siegel) are terrific as the young couple who are drawn to each other until things go awry. They beautiofuklk give shadings to not o=onoy their overall character but to each every-changing moimnent in a world of college pressures and their explorations of self discovery.
Taneishas Duggan makes an impressive TW bow in staging the show, with the focus squarely on the two characters complicated dynamic. Designer Jean Kims shows how less can be oh so much in creating a beautifui blank canvas of a set that frames the story — and echoes the Atheuem’s canvases (at least in my mind). In a way, finding the definitive answers here is as futile as finding the “right” interpretation of the museum’s abstract works of art.
Amnith A. Chandrashaker lighting boldly plays with shadows and silhouettes that also reflect the shadings of the play itself,. The production’s sound, however, has not yet been mastered yet in the long Aetna Theatre, especially when the actors are upstage,
Emile, right out of NYU’s graduate acting program, makes a impressive debut here as Tom., showing the bravado, insecurities, and charm as his life instantly spirals out of control. His Eddie Murphy throwaway laugh is the right touch too to flash on some humor even during the frought circumstances. Siegel also does aan extraordinary balancing act as she goes from aggressor, to needy to confused to annoying to terrified.
In a way, it end in a courtroom procedural that is as riveting as any “Law & Order,” minus the neat epilogue.
Who will like it?: Those who like juicy thought-provoking plays about important contemporary issues.
Who won’t?: Those who want definitive answers courtroom dramas or those who see this complex issue only in terms of absolutes.
For the kids: Actually teenagers could most benefit from seeing this show.
Twitter review in 140 characters or less: He said. She said. But what actually happened is a lot more complicated in engrossing production.
Thoughts on leaving the parking lot?: For those who realize that life is not all black and white but shades of gray this is what theater is all about. These complex characters in oh-so-nuanced situations made for great conversation all the way home after the show — and offer a framework for discussion for future conversations when such issues come up. It will make me, for one, not jump to any conclusions when I hear about similar stories. (But I still know which way I would have decided in this situation. But I imagine others may disagree. Want to talk about it? That’s the beauty of this TW production in that it makes you believe in both characters, their lives and their futures.)
The basics: The play continues through June 23.