Theater Review: The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
Eva DeVirgilis shines in the solo-performance The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Actually, she more than shines. She self-ignites and blazes away with her emotionally ravishing and astonishingly funny talents.
Opening this Henley Street Theatre production, written by Jane Wagner and made famous by Lily Tomlin, we meet Trudy, a New York bag lady from the corner of “Walk” and “Don’t Walk”. Challenging the reality of “reality”, she reveals that going crazy was the best thing to ever happen to her, and suggests everyone break into her “piñata perspective.” As Trudy explains, “When [the mind] breaks open, there’s lots of surprises inside. Once you get in the piñata perspective, you see that losing your mind can be a peak experience.”
We are then slowly introduced to a diverse collection of characters that include a divorced health-nut/cokehead/bodybuilder/sperm-donor who questions his paternal instincts; a provoked and distressed 15-year-old, Agnes; a wealthy, aloof woman whose greatest global concern is a botched haircut; two prostitutes, Brandi and Tina; and a constantly quarreling, yet endearing older couple, Lud and Marie. These are only a few from the host of characters DeVirgilis portrays.
Throughout the two and ½ hr performance, which could have been slightly condensed, DeVirgilis never falters. From portraying multiple personas in a single conversation, to instant transitions from gut-wrenching moments to hilarious ones, she is phenomenal. Did I mention DeVirgilis is sans costumes and props? Though completely void of anything other than her person (and a few impromptu hair changes), the actress, directed by Laine Satterfield, successfully transforms into every character, and captivates the audience along the way.
The choice of venue, the Gottwald Playhouse, allows for an extreme intimacy between the audience and DeVirgilis. The stage and set are simple, yet affective. James Rick’s sound design, which reflects the changes in mood and characters, is seamlessly in sync with DeVirgilis’ movements. The lighting, by Andrew Bonniwell, draws attention to these frequent role changes.
This play leaves you pondering the connections between us all, and stressing the importance of paying attention to other’s lives, however dysfunctional they may be. More than anything, it’s about our capacity to be human, and cherish every “goose bump experience.” As Trudy so deftly hopes, “Maybe one day we’ll do something so magnificent, everyone in the universe will get goose bumps.”
Henley Street’s The Search for Intelligent Signs of Life in the Universe is booked for only a few more weeks, through December 31, 2012. Give yourself possibly the nicest present this holiday and join in on the search with Trudy, Agnes, Lud, Marie, and every other carbon-based human you know.
“The Search for Intelligent Signs of Life in the Universe,” presented by Henley Street Theatre, runs December 6th – 31st, 2012 at the Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond Centerstage, 600 E. Grace St, Richmond, VA 23219. For more information, see the Facebook event here. Purchase tickets, ranging from $15-$35, at www.henleystreettheatre.org. Tickets for the New Year’s Eve Celebration Show are $50, and include a toasting beverage and dessert bar. Direction by Laine Satterfield, Costume Design by Holly Sullivan, Set/Sound Design by James Ricks and Lighting Design by Andrew Bonniwell.
A recent NYC transplant, I'm a writer, dancer, foodie, clothing lover, and sriracha supporter. Having lived in RVA for seven years, I completely adore the River City, and still spend as many days as I can rock-laying on the James. A self proclaimed "vintage voyeur," I think the arts scene of any city can reveal so much... not only about our past, but also our modern day, and where we need to go from here.
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