Loss and Isolation
Freedom and Opportunity
by Geraldine Aron
directed by Michael Donald Edwards
“All the women in Sarasota should see this and bring the men that love them.” –Michael Donald Edwards; Director
“You can’t understand comedy unless you really understand pain.”-Mary Testa; Actress
“Very clever, very entertaining two hours, extremely well written, hit emotionally and intellectually, everything that the human experience is.” -Susan Short; Executive Producer of Movieville Film Festival
How do we pick up the pieces and start all over again after a divorce? Whether you are a man or a woman, the only difference is how we deal with it. My Brilliant Divorce is a fascinating one woman play lead by Mary Testa who plays Angela, an American going through a divorce in London. Angela shares her story with her dedicated dog Dexter at her side. She takes us through the ups and downs during the separation with her ex-husband who leaves her for what she calls, “A Spanish speaking embryo.” She isn’t sure is she’s been dumped or liberated, but one thing’s for sure you will laugh with the witty one liners such as the advice a friend gave her, “Think of men as condiments, you take what you need and put it back when you’re done.”
Testa achieves the balance between comedy and drama; her transitions are smooth, her ability to expose her true self in front of us is incredible. “The plays at the Asolo Rep are by far as good as any play in New York to Chicago,” my friend and guest Susan Short says, “The difference is you don’t have to fight the traffic to get to the theatre.” We loved the show and you will too, I think the men laughed the hardest.
During intermission I spoke with Rich Ferrell; Asolo Rep Board Member he smiles and tells me, “It’s fascinating that men can relate to this and to hear the insight from this woman. There are a lot of men who need to hear this because it’s so important to give this perspective; the ex-husband with girls in their twenty’s.” Ferrell often tells his girl friends there is no man good enough for a girl. “Guys don’t get this perspective, a guy can be sixty and do this and find the twenty year olds. Then there are girls who are forty trying to look twenty and trying to compete, it’s just not right.” says Ferrell dressed in a stylish Teddy Tinson Bow Tie.
At the after party I spot Larry Derosa who normally greets us at the door, this time he was out of uniform and by the dessert table. He received an email the night before offering him the night off to watch the play, “I like a role reversal like this it’s very refreshing,” he says. He loved the show and can relate to a lot of the things she said both happy and sad.
Being that the character Angela is an American in London going through a divorce, Susan Yannetti; Public Relations Manager feels, “It amplifies her issues such as feeling of dissociation, loss and being without anything familiar. Mary’s comedic sensibilities and ability to get across the dramatic and emotional moments really makes the play land.” Yannetti, whom I’ve spoken to after every show, seems more serious in our conversation than usual. She goes on to say, “There is something that everyone can relate to in this story; truth and truth hurts and it’s painful, but also very funny because we recognize ourselves in that it’s a wonderful emotional journey.”
Writer, Geraldine Arron originally wrote My Brilliant Divorce for a British actress Michael Donald Edwards, Director tells me, “We adapted it to make her American and I think it really worked.” I asked if he thought there would be a role reversal as a follow-up to this play he tells me, “The writer has written a gay version of this play, a gay man going through the same thing.”
Each and every time I go to the Asolo I have the most enjoyable experience, there has yet to be a show I didn’t like. I wonder how the selection process works, “The ideas come from just being out in the world doing things. I spend a lot of time in New York and I am always looking at, what young people are interested, what are they doing, and trying to find ways to bring them together.” Edwards says in his eloquent Australian accent, “I’m constantly stimulated by the artists. I wanted to find something for Mary because of Love, Loss and What I Wore. The Projection Designer; Aaron Rhyne sent me the script a year and a half ago and when I met Mary, I thought she was perfect. It’s being alert to the possibilities.”
The cast and crew who are located just short of my left elbow, are beaming with excitement and can hardly contain themselves long enough to give me an interview, I don’t blame this New York based team. They are young, vivacious and I must say, very humble, but they can’t wait to celebrate with a few cocktails and champagne outside the theatre, so I keep my words short as Edwards introduces me to Mary Testa who plays Angela.
You may think it gets lonely on stage, but Mary Testa tells me, “I love to collaborate with other actors, but I love working by myself. I can do a lot of things and to have that opportunity to do those things on stage puts me in my glory, trust me.” How important is the audience in a show like this, “The audience is another character that I am confiding in personally. I am telling them the story. I am talking to the audience and it’s different every night.”
When I ask Mary to share with me something she would like people to know about her, she laughs at first then gets serious, “I do a lot of comedy, but I am a good tragedian. I am deep and can understand the depth of emotion. There is a deep emotional core to this piece. You can’t understand comedy unless you really understand pain. That’s what I want everyone to know, the polar opposites.” Without muttering a single word on stage, Testa brings a shift to the room with her energy alone, it’s an amazing transition only a skilled actor can do, “Everyone has experienced pain, loss or disappointment in their life. If I can help the audience release that, then that’s a God given talent.”
Mary has advice to actors who are thinking of going the comedic route, “I don’t think comedic timing can be taught, you either know it or you don’t. You may get close to it, but you have to intrinsically know the rhythm.”
In a solo act, the actress is the center of attention, with this show besides Dexter her dog that slides around on stage via remote control, projected images throughout the show assist you in getting a sense of what Angela is thinking and a feeling. Rhyne who worked on the première in New York said, “The production was fine, but not amazing,” so he sent it to Edwards telling him, “I feel this would be amazing for your audience.” His reason for doing that, “I felt we could take it further and we did.” Describing the show as a delicate piece, Rhyne explains, “You don’t want to create something fully, just a hint of it so you can focus on the character.”
From set design, costumes and projection; several components must flow together in order for a play to work well. Anthony Pearson is the Lighting Designer, “Lighting is part of making each scene and each moment, it takes you to the next moment in the show. Its one woman standing there, how do you create the next scene without moving a bunch of scenery and take you to the next place.”
What’s the most exciting part of your job I ask, “I get to hang out with a bunch of new people every couple of months and get to know them really intimately. You get in a dark theatre with a couple of other people, it’s weirdly intimate. It doesn’t seem that way at first, but the actors are on stage exposing themselves emotionally and you learn a lot about people very quickly. You grab the best bits of those relationships and take them with you. We’ll do 10-12 shows a year and get amazing exposure to people.” In addition to his work on My Brilliant Divorce at the Asolo Rep, Pearson is also an Associate Lighting Designer in New York working on Broadway’s Tony Award winning shows Pippin and Kinky Boots.
My Brilliant Divorce closes out the season, Yannetti says, “What we strive to look for in our shows, is it isn’t just hitting one note, it’s trying to find an experience that unites us all. Our American Character theme is looking at things that define us as a country, what’s our national identity.” Susan shares with me how this season has come full circle, “Talking with Michael in the beginning of the season, I noticed the first show we did was 1776. It was about our national identity and our divorce with England as a partner. Now we ended the show with another American and the British, so we’ve really come full circle.”
Next season kicks off in November with Show Boat and plays such as The Grapes of Wrath and Hero, but that’s several months away. Take advantage of My Brilliant Divorce, the lessons that we all can take away is worth the effort. I don’t think many of you realize that the plays coming to the theatre teach or remind us of history or a life lesson. Take a break from watching television, surfing the internet or going to the bars; do something memorable and go to the Asolo Rep and embrace the last show of the season. July 26-July 14, 2013 –purchase tickets online at AsoloRep.org or call (941)351-9010.