Sunday, January 31, 2010

Anna Bella Eema

Theater Ninjas confuses, confounds and fascinates with ‘ANNA BELLA EEMA’

Theatre Ninja’s talented Artistic Director, Jeremy Paul, has a knack for picking plays which are challenging. Challenging to the cast, who must find the performance devices to portray characters which are usually extremely non-traditional, often edging on the insane. Also challenging to the audience who must figure out what is going on with these people.

Paul’s latest mind boggler is ‘ANNA BELLA EEMA,’ a play by Lisa D’Amour.

Reviews of the script in other venues reveal explanations such as, “the script is part fairy tale and part creepy campfire,” “it is an intriguing, beguiling tale of creation, womanhood, anima, loss and survival. “ Other views were: “it is far-fetched, ridiculous and silly,” and “it drags and disengages.”

For the sake of discussion, let’s say that this is a ghost story with three bodies with three voices. The three voices belong to Actress # 1: a mother who is a thick sturdy woman who we eventually discover is agoraphobic, obsessive and paranoid. Actress #2 is an impish young girl “whose eyes sparkle and whose voice reaches toward the sky.” Actress #3 is also impish, sometimes appearing to be Actress #2's twin sister. She has a supernatural soul.

The characters generally don't speak to each other, but to the audience. They tell improbable story after improbable story relating to how their household is the last holdout in a trailer park being displaced by a highway project. These stories include how Actress 2 created Actress 3 out of clay. According to the playwright, the script “asks us to listen and listen carefully’ as the characters “explore the human and particularly the female experience.”

The Theatre Ninjas production, under the guidance of Paul, is both confounding and compelling. It is well staged, well acted and in spite of its obtuseness, is captivating.

All three cast members are strong. Elizabeth R. Wood, Actress One, the mother, demands attention. Wood develops a neurotic being who is out and out scary. Why is this mother like she is? What has driven her into her state of insanity? I don’t know, but Wood makes her live with impassioned frustration.

Faye Hargate is properly child-like as the basically “normal” young girl, mature beyond her years. Well, as normal as a child could be living in solitude, in a decaying trailer, surrounded by miles of nothingness, with bulldozers at the front door.

Cassie Neumann, Actress 3, may be the most bizarre of all. What is she? Is she really a creation of mud? Whatever, she is properly spooky.

Curtis Young’s set, Alison Garrigan’s costumes, and Jeremy Paul’s lighting all enhance the bizarre experience.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘ANNA BELL EEMA’ is a quirky Goth play that will not be to everyone’s liking. It’s worth going to see three fine performances. The ride home should be a setting for trying to figure out what you just saw and what, if anything, it means.