Presented by Bad Habit Productions
by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Liz Fenstermaker
Review by Noelani Kamelamela
(Boston) Bad Habit Productions closes their seventh season, “Ambition & Sacrifice,” with a sharp focus on the feminine. Their interpretation of Caryl Churchill’s work provides representation of classic and modern stereotypes of females while maintaining a quick pace.
“Ambition and Sacrifice” are embodied aptly by Courtland Jones as Marlene, whose success as a top executive was only made possible by difficult choices. Whip-smart in public, fabulous of hair, atrophied emotionally: her life, present and past or imagined are the basis for the journey. The cast’s movement on and around the stage was key for conveying forward motion of the show. All members did excellent accent work which was necessary for running double and in one case triple duty, but they tackled overlapping dialogue with limited success: the audience at large was initially unsure whether those choices were as written, but eventually grasped the concept upon repetition.
Public images of famous women pepper the set (art by local artists also available for sale) to mirror the moving collage of lady archetypes. The intimate, asymmetrical and multi-leveled set was at odds with the symmetrical audience seating. This caused interesting blocking choices and unique set pictures. Light and sound coordination were pivotal for mood changes during scenes. Props and set pieces were repurposed from scene to scene, an homage to the evolution not only of the characters but society’s perceptions of women over time.
Time or times or place or places: if you thought of a place or time you’d like to visit, it certainly got a character or at least a mention. Much of the audience seemed confused with the shifts, but maintained interest, in part due to the cast’s unfaltering and inexorable pacing. The cast was assisted by props and costumes that fit the multiple periods. Maria Carreon in particular plays two characters who are stark contrasts to each other though set apart through vast swaths of time and space: she managed to play both with equal commitment and success.
I think there are parts of this play that will resonate with a general audience. The comedic moments fueled by misunderstandings between characters and the sharing of general frustration with a woman’s (human’s) place in society are universal. The particular details as written were deftly dealt with onstage. Clearly, Bad Habit created a labor of love that showcases so very many experiences, and the sweat, blood and tears required remained backstage baggage.
Bad Habit Productions is also producing Diamond in the Sky, a show for all ages about famous women, at the BCA on April 19-26 in the afternoons. Their eighth season, “Identity & Discovery”, will begin with Brian Friel’s Translations in August.