Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Martha (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

I make a point of not reading the program of shows before a performance.  This is a philosophical choice, because of a desire to have a play or performance stand on its own.  After all, if audiences need to do homework to "get" a performance, how good can such be in the end?

For Martha, the one woman show about Martha Graham, I went one step further. For better and for worse, I did no research about the iconic dancer/choreographer.  True, her name remains famous. Her life in the most vague and general terms remained known to me.  But more, I wanted to see what this play would reveal.

And yeah, sometimes I'm just a little bit lazy.

So how did it turn out?

Very well indeed.  Playwright Ellen Melaver and director Steward J. Zully ended up giving actress Christina Carlisi a wonderful opportunity to simply explore this great artist's character and life, without going overboard on explanations of the many, many contexts of Martha Graham's life.  Not a blow by blow of her days, as if someone wanted to turn her wikipedia page into a theatrical performance.  Instead the whole thing came across as a slice of life, a few moments when Graham looked back in the wake of a disaster--reliving moments, remembering people, commenting on those around her in one way or another.  The disaster she eventually even relives--and by that time we understand enough to know how much it made her soul bleed.

Not linear.  Not organized.  Not straightforward or full of justifications.  And never, ever, not once boring.  Rather we feel as if a fascinating woman walked into our lives and shared some searingly honest moments and memories.

Which seems, after all, the point.

Martha plays Sundays at 7pm through April 16, 2017 at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks CA 91423.

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