Reviewed by Dorian Palumbo, a distinguished screen and play writer.
“Lisa is no hero, Lisa makes horrible choices, Lisa can at times be difficult to understand or like, but perhaps had she been given a voice as a young girl, as a teenager – perhaps her outcome would have been different…” Akia, Director of Rising Sun Performance Company’s revival of “The Glory of Living”
When seeing a revival of a play, the first question I always ask is “Why.” Lucky for me, there was a very touching letter from Akia, the Director of last night’s “Glory for Living,” included right in the program. Having now seen Rising Sun’s production, I can’t help but concur – this is a play for the here and now. Like so many of the offerings at this year’s Planet Connections Theatre Festival, this play speaks directly to a socio-political issue, one of many, that’s been thrown into high contrast under the glaring floodlights of a callous Presidential Administration.
Long before “Orange is the New Black”, there was Rebecca Gilman’s play exploring the life of Lisa Needham, who runs away from a tragic upbringing of neglect and abuse with Clint, a car thief, rapist, and eventual instigator for murder and attempted murder by Lisa. While the central question of the play was then, and still is, what could motivate a teenaged girl to behave in this brutal way, watching the play unfold around what led Lisa to her prison cell also shows us how differently women can be treated by our current justice system.
Sophie Gagnon as Lisa, and John K. Hart as Clint, are perfectly in synch and extremely compelling to watch, deftly showing us a relationship that is emotionally fraught, dangerous, and ultimately doomed, with much skill and charisma. Eric Parness, as Lisa’s defense attorney Carl, also strikes the right notes, lightly playing the frustration Carl feels at Lisa’s odd matter-of-fact response to her predicament, then working in concert with Gagnon to make the final moments of the play, involving Lisa’s treasured toy piano, touching, believable, and ultimately satisfying.
The direction and design of the piece is sophisticated, using light, sound and space to support the story firmly and beautifully.
This production is linked, as are all the festival offerings, with a charity to which attendees are encourage to donate. For Glory of Living, the charity is the National Network to End Domestic Violence nnedv.org.
“The Glory of Living” will be offered again at 7 PM on Wednesday, July 5th, at 9:30 PM on Friday the 7th, and one last time at 3 PM on Sunday the 9th. Tickets are a bargain at $18.