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Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008

Versatile Performance

Theater Review

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Deborah Staples would have done the Bard proud as the versatile solo performer in the new Rep production of Robert Hewett's recent play, The Blonde, the Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead. It seems "custom cannot stale her infinite variety," and Staples needs every bit of variety to hold together this odd cornucopia of unusual moods and contrasts signified by seven different characters, each with their own unique dialect. The play purports to be an "exploration of multiple perspective on love, anger and adultery," or "how you can really know your neighbors when a single moment of madness can change ones life forever"-somewhat heavy baggage for a one-woman show.

The core plot line centers around Rhonda, a housewife who goes berserk in a shopping center, attacking her cheating husband's girlfriend at the instigation of her supposedly friendly neighbor. The overlapping stories present monologues by each of the characters involved, all brilliantly performed in striking vocal and physical contrasts by Staples. She even plays the husband in a hilariously bawdy vignette.

This would be an ambitious undertaking even for a more complex multi-cast undertaking. Unfortunately, the heavy-handed thematic contrasts of the text do not play out in keeping with the author's high-minded intentions. The hapless Rhonda seems more like a skimpy character out of "Desperate Housewives" than a symbol of tragic irony. Her opening monologue is rife with humor that should have more steadfastly set the tone throughout the play. Instead the drama becomes unexpectedly heavy-handed with out-of-place references to offstage violence. Too much time is spent commiserating with the sorrows of the victims. Much needed humor, as in the scene with the manipulative neighbor, occurs too infrequently. The author's closing monologue seems as bathetic as a prime time television soap opera trying to appear lofty.
Still, Deborah staples makes the show a pleasure to watch. All roles fall at her doorstep. The staging under Joseph Hanreddy's direction is brilliant .The costume changes take place in full view of the audience in a brightly lit center stage cubicle, an effect which heightens the ingenuity of the star performer but also offsets and uncannily unifies the contrasts in human nature, which may well be the unifying element of the play, and the main reason to see it.