MARYSVILLE — Artistic director Scott B Randall proves with his production of the play “Body Awareness” that the Red Curtain Foundation offers more than the standard community theater fare.
OK, this is not a play for children. The dark comedy, which debuted Off-Broadway in 2008, touches on issues such as sexuality, infidelity, body image, nudity in art and censorship. On the side, it takes a look at the autism spectrum, the labels we give each other and the rearing of boys. It’s heavy stuff, with lots of swearing, but it’s also fun and funny.
“Body Awareness” opened Jan. 19 and continues Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons through Feb. 4 at the Red Curtain Arts Center.
Theater is meant to be a reflection of the human condition, a mirror held up to the real world, Randall said. His hope is that audiences will appreciate the timely and intelligent subject matter of the play, and that it will lead to more productions that “accurately reflect the world we currently live in.”
In the end, the issue of body awareness may not be just about our own bodies, but of the bodies beside us.
Playwright Annie Baker sets her story on a Vermont college campus, where an annual focus on eating disorders has morphed into Body Awareness Week.
Phyllis, a psychology professor, is the organizer for the week. She and her partner, Joyce, a high school social studies teacher, also live with Joyce’s son Jared, a brilliant but awkward young man who doesn’t want to believe he may have Asperger’s syndrome.
Phyllis and Joyce have invited one of the visiting speakers for Body Awareness Week to stay at their home. Frank is a photographer well known for his nude portraits of women.
While Phyllis bristles at Frank’s art and sees it as degrading to women, Joyce is interested in his work and even considers posing for him. And this causes friction in the women’s relationship.
Meanwhile Jared asks Frank for some advice on how to date women, and the results backfire.
Like the play, the small ensemble cast rises above common community theater offerings. The actors do an excellent job.
Outstanding was Jacy Leavitt as Jared. I believed from the start that he had Asperger’s, and Leavitt pulled the heartstrings pretty hard.
The beautiful Cara Thomas — as the charismatic Phyllis — brings loads of talent and nuanced acting to her role. This is her third Red Curtain play, and I hope she is back for many more.
Erin Carter as Joyce did a fine job in previous Red Curtain shows, including as Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and Belinda in “Noises Off!” Carter is especially great in this play when Joyce is considering posing for the photographer.
John Klise — who played in Lloyd in last season’s “Noises Off!” — is great as Frank, the bemused photographer.
Randall has done a nice job with the set, which stages the home kitchen, a college lecture hall and Joyce and Phyllis’ bedroom. The transitions between scenes were smooth because the actors moved into place accompanied by mixtape of appropriate songs. My only criticism is that occasionally the actors could not be heard, whether because the blocking made projection difficult or the sound went up to the rafters instead of out to the audience.
Bravo to Randall for offering a play to make us think, for trying new stuff and for working hard. This guy, whose Western Washington University degree is in theater education, also works as the theater adviser at Snohomish High School, directs plays at Everett Community College and offers classes at Red Curtain.
Each performance of “Body Awareness” is introduced by a local artist or expert presenting a topic related to body image. On opening night, we were treated to a set of burlesque performances by four women. The parodies of strip tease were sexy, but also enlightening because the women have body shapes that most Americans share, not the bodies of magazine models.
If you go
Performances of “Body Awareness” are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 4 at the Red Curtain Arts Center, 9315 State Ave, Suite J (in the Goodwill shopping center, behind the EvCC cosmetology school).
Tickets are $18 general and $15 for seniors, students and military personnel. Tickets are available online at brownpapertickets.com; at the RCF box office by phone at 360-322-7402); or in-person at the arts center 2-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
More information is available at www.redcurtainfoundation.org.