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Grace, or the Art of Climbing

a Drama
by Lauren Feldman

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Discovery Point Studio [WEBSITE]
ID# 5289

SHOWING : June 15, 2018 - June 17, 2018



Faced with a painful chapter in her life and fighting the inertia of depression, Emm decides to enter the world of competitive rock climbing. Her quest charts the journey between muscularity and vulnerability, falling and climbing, parents and children, and the ardor and grace of being human.

Director Jasmine Renee Ellis
Sims Joey Florez
Sam/Joey Chris Schulz
Emm Laura Spears
Abe Kenneth Wigley
Ky/Jackie Suzanne Zoller
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Falling from Grace
by playgoer
Monday, June 18, 2018
Emm is depressed. She has just broken up with her boyfriend in Boston and moved back home, right into a family medical crisis. She’s not coping well. She starts improving only when she begins working out on the rock climbing equipment her father installed in their garage when she was a child. She transitions to a local climbing class (for children), and eventually we see her setting her sights even higher.

The story isn’t told clearly and sequentially. We are given guideposts of "day one," "day two," and so forth, but memories and imagined conversations swirl in and out of the story. The nature of the family medical crisis is hinted at early on, but becomes clear only much later on. The story is told in fragments, like flakes chipping off rocks.

No set designer is credited in the program. The Aurora black box theatre is set up with yellow-and-black caution tape on the floor in a rectangle, segmented into four triangles painted in primary colors. A bureau anchors the upstage right corner of the rectangle; a bookcase anchors the upstage left corner. Two rope ends hang down on either side, and a bench and ladders complete the set visible at the start. Later, a black curtain is pulled aside to reveal a climbing wall upstage. The design is hardly what one would call graceful, but it works well for the action. Action is highlighted nicely by Cody Evins’ light design and Seun Soyemi’s sound design.

Jasmine Renee Ellis has directed the play to keep its pace slow and steady, using the assistance of movement coach Suzanne Zoller to flesh out the moments when people are supposed to be working out on the gym equipment or climbing in ways not involving the upstage wall. It’s all pretty fluid, but more viscous in movement than freely gliding.

Performances are good. Laura Spears is appropriately downbeat as the self-defeated Emm, and Joey Florez Jr. is engaging and upbeat as coach Sims. Kenneth Wigley gives a fine performance as Abe, Emm’s father, but his speech patterns tend to be rushed at the start, causing some words to be swallowed, and to be covered somewhat by the background music at the end. The four-person ensemble (Chris Schulz, Jessie Cordell, Johnathan Taylor, and Suzanne Zoller) each play multiple roles ably, showing clear distinction between their adult characters and their child characters. Costumes (design uncredited) work well to distinguish character.

Lauren Feldman’s script veers into the poetic at times, and uses lots of climbing terms that aren’t clearly explained to neophytes to the climbing world. While Ms. Ellis’ curtain speech might relate the storyline to depression, the script seems to be more about female empowerment, using event-induced depression as a starting point. It’s a quiet, reflective play, giving the impression of a memory play welded onto what is supposed to be an uplifting story of an ascent from depression into full mental health. All in all, though, this production is a downer. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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