Annie Baker’s insightful, funny, poignant new one-act play, “Body Awareness,” is given a terrific interpretation by Wilbury Group at their new digs, the old Trinity Theatre at the Southside Cultural Center at 393 Broad St. in Providence.
The original Trinity Rep theatre space brought back memories of my introduction to the Rhode Island scene back in the mid-’60s, and while the space needs some renovating, it has the potential for a fine additional theatre location.
Director Wendy Overly has taken Annie Baker’s modern play and brought out her sharp, straight-to-the-point dialogue and wonderful body language and reactions among the fascinating and diverse characters.
Karen Carpenter is absolutely brilliant as Phyllis, the Vermont college administrator of a conference she has titled Body Awareness Week, introducing some far-out guests and taking one of the presenters (Kerry Callery), a photographer of nude females, into her partner’s home.
The home is a mining field of relationships, as she and her female partner cope with Joyce’s 21-year-old son, Jared. Joyce (Clare Blackmer) is a high school social studies teacher.
Jared probably has Asperger’s, but he denies it, pointing out symptoms he does not possess, while displaying some very definite ones. Jared is a self-proclaimed “autodidact,” spending his time looking up words in a two-volume dictionary when he is not working at McDonald’s.
All four actors have taken their individual roles and gotten inside the heads and hearts of the characters. Many of the scenes are short and well edited to bring out the volatile relationships between the characters.
Many of the responses are non-verbal, giving the audience the challenge of watching the facial expressions and non-verbal responses during the heated conversations. This technique requires superb acting, and all four characters succeed, making for a fascinating 90 minutes of theatre.
Samuel Appleman gives a stunning performance as Jared, a young man prone to physical and verbal outbursts as he seeks to define himself.
While not a lot happens in the play, an awful lot happens to the characters’ feelings about themselves and their relationships.
Phyllis is appalled by the photographer’s taking pictures of nude females, both young and old, while Joyce has the anxious desire to be photographed by him, leading to the two partners examining their relationship. The photographer becomes a source for Jared to question his own sexuality and desire to check out his virginity. Both desires lead to a closing scene that will stun you and leave you with much to think about.
“Body Awareness” is a play to be seen…a play that you could see again and come away with more questions and thoughts about how we deal with touchy situations and relationships. It is being performed through April 6. Call 400-7100 for reservations, or go online at www.wilburygroup.org.