PLAY REVIEW: VSU Theater’s Latest Show Packs a Subtle, Powerful Punch | Local News

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VALDOSTA – Some pieces, the public expects a “performance”. Something where the actors blunt dramatically, express themselves theatrically, where the actors’ voices, movements, motives are larger than life.

They have to “project” – proh-JECT – to be heard, for the language to be understood, for the dialogue to have an impact. We want to clap at the end and look at the other viewers and say it was a performance – with a capital P.

Audiences often do this because that’s what we expect from live theatre. But if actors were talking, moving, or expressing themselves that way in a movie, we’d think it’s overkill. If someone behaved that way in real life, we would probably distance ourselves from that person.

And that’s part of the beauty of “Ugly Lies the Bone.”

Valdosta State University’s play and dance doesn’t lack drama, it doesn’t lack drama, it doesn’t lack emotional and humorous impact, it doesn’t lack performance. But the performance is with a lowercase p – it’s subtle and it fuels the performance with power – with a capital P.

The actors inhabit their roles. I never felt like I was watching a show, more like I was let into the lives of a handful of people. And that’s the secret to masterful performance and masterful direction, especially for audiences weaned on the on-the-fly viewing of TV dramas.

The screenplay by playwright Lindsey Ferrentino is modern. Set only a decade ago, written even fewer years ago, it introduces audiences to Jess, a horribly wounded American soldier, body and soul, in Afghanistan. Jess returns to her small Florida hometown after more than a year of surgery and treatment for her wounds caused by an improvised explosive device. His treatment continues with a virtual reality program.

She returns home around the same time the space shuttle prepares for its final launch. She returns home to her sister and her sister’s new boyfriend, a sick mother and an old love with whom she is not reconciled.

Ferrentino fills the script with emotional drama and cathartic humor – both genuine, yet authentic, both seamlessly integrated under H. Duke Guthrie’s direction.

In some shows, directors wisely let their actors go overboard, then hold them back. Here, it looks like Guthrie instructed the actors to start small and then build layers of personality and depth into their roles, creating people rather than characters.

Minimalist brushstrokes, suggestions rather than statements, connecting the dots rather than boldly spelling things out, Guthrie draws the audience into the world of a woman and the repercussions of her return to the life immediately surrounding her and, afterwards, about the lives and thoughts of the audience watching the show. .

The entire VSU Theater creative team brings this show to life: Ruth A. Brandvik, lighting and projection design; Natalie Sorrento, scenography; Delaiah Harris, makeup design; Ian Andersen, fight choreographer; Chalise Ludlow, costume design; Jolie DesRuisseau, stage manager; Zachariah Rosenbaum, sound design; Sarah Liffick, Technical Director.

All deserve the standing ovation that greeted the end of opening night.

The same goes for the cast of Alex Seelmeyer, Aysia Williams, Hope Clayborne, Marcus McGhee and Quint Paxton. They create memorable characters without any sturm und drang, gnashing of teeth or pratfalls. Again, they don’t play characters so much as they become other people in this play.

Seelmeyer is outstanding as Jess, the injured and scarred veteran. Jess no longer believes that she is herself, neither inside nor outside. Yet, deep down, she’s the same person she’s always been—it’s that core that struggles to recognize the rest of her.

And when Jess finally sees her sick mother near the end of the show, the encounter is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

Seelmeyer gives a nuanced performance, the broken pieces held together by the tenacious hope of that inner spirit. Seelmeyer sacrifices herself for this role but she doesn’t bleed all over the stage. She plays a much deeper, quieter game that has a punch that lasts long after she leaves the theater.

“Ugly Lies the Bone” by Lindsey Ferrentino continues at 7:30 p.m., September 17-18, 20-21; 3 p.m., Sept. 19, Sawyer Theater, VSU Fine Arts Building, corner Oak and Brookwood. The show lasts just under 90 minutes without intermission. NOTE: The play contains adult themes and language. More information: Call (229) 333-5973 or visit www.valdosta.edu/comarts.

This review is based on the Thursday night performance.