Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Heather Barfield Cole, Fri., Aug. 27, 2004
SpinBlue Theater, through Sept. 4
Running time 1hr, 30 min
Spin can be described as a one-woman cabaret with one woman who performs several one-woman exposés. The diva enters wearing a rainbow of boas draped around her shoulders, a sparkling blue formal dress, and a very tall feather sticking straight up to the heavens. Catherine Berry sings about being overdressed with nobody having warned her about the dress code. Her round blue eyes twinkle, her brow wrinkles in confusion. Instantly, her presence on stage is more than likeable; it is deeply engaging. She is fascinating to watch, and it's sort of a mystery. I suppose it is in her absolute surrender to herself and the audience. She seems unafraid. This fearlessness is perhaps what makes Berry so vibrant and sincere.
A mix of talented playwrights indulged Berry's request to write short character moments inspired by songs. Each song presents us with a new character. Each character is explored further through monologue. In Lydia, by Katherine Catmull, the Bard recites sonnets to his love. Although Lydia is impressed, her deeper yearning rests in the Lerner and Loewe song "Show Me," as in "Show me you love me without words. Use your body, baby." Berry's grasp of comedic facial and physical expression is superb. In addition, the playwrights tend to have wicked humor. In Patricia Decker's Carmen, revenge is the desire, using the Amy Rigby song "Keep It to Yourself." Berry takes the microphone and presents herself as the lonely singer in a smoky bar, sweetly suggesting how to murder and betray her ex-lover. John Walch's Gretchen is more psychoanalytic, using a bread box to represent the mind. Gretchen is unwilling to trust a compliment, such as "Too Marvelous for Words," by Johnny Mercer. She hammers at the box to stop the negative playback of words burned into her self-perception. This forceful persistence is what causes her to have a concussion. An even darker yet subtler story is told in Cyndi Williams' Annette. Berry sings "Sons of" by Jacques Brel while hanging children's clothes up to dry. She uses lifeless pants as puppets, dancing them across the stage, suggesting the body that could have been wearing them is no longer alive. This is a touching moment orbiting around loss and grief.
The bond in this show is Adele, an experienced stage actress who now works as a janitor at the theatre. She pours bleach into a spray bottle, ominously describing the insect and bacteria genocide about to occur. Her body is hunched over as if having swept too many hard-to-reach spots, her voice wavers indicating age and use, but Adele's character is formidable. She has the secrets we all want to hear. It doesn't matter if they are lies.
If we live in a time of schizophrenia, fragmented souls, and lost dreams, Spin assures us that this is all normal. Characters are everyday, everywhere. Playwrights understand this, and Catherine Berry emulates this. Theatre and its narcissistic nature are forgivable when characters and performers are not only sympathetic but very entertaining.