Presented by Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston
Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Olivia D’Ambrosio
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) It is fitting that the performances of Salomé coincide with the supermoon lunar eclipse aka Blood Moon. The night’s full moon took a red hue from the shadow cast on it by the Earth. It was a match for the moon image used in the production by Bridge Rep. on Sunday night. As heard through my social network after the performance, both moons were the unhappy source of chicanery on and off the stage.
The Biblical story of Salomé (Shura Baryshnikov), to paraphrase wildly, is about a beautiful princess so obsessed with an unshaven and manic John the Baptist (Woody Gaul) that she is driven mad by sexy feelings. Meanwhile, step-Dad Herod (Robert D. Murphy) has been eyeing Salomé at his kickin’ party all night. Much to the chagrin of Herodias (Veronica Wiseman), Salomé’s Mom, Herod promises Salomé anything her heart desires if only she’ll satisfy his kink for underaged interpretive dance. Herod hadn’t asked what it was she might want from him so Salomé sensibly asks for the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. Things get weird. Dramaturg Bridgette Hayes has an excellent note in the program for those seeking more information.
The actors in this production are working very hard to create an immersive performance. They are mostly successful. The cast’s creative use of the performance space was a fun idea but lacked conviction from the actors except Cliff Odle (Tigellinus) and Geoff Van Wyck (Page). An uncomfortable power-play bounced between the players and the audience. The audience didn’t know if the play had started and the cast wasn’t letting on. The awkwardness was contagious. It only wore off when the actors were given the opportunity to rebuild the 4th wall. At which time, the scripted dialogue commenced at a breakneck speed that didn’t settle until Baryshnikov took the stage. Once she did, the tempo slowed to one more reasonable. The relief was palpable.
Pacing and 4th wall aside, the acting in this production is firm. The direction from D’Ambrosio is wise and intuitive to the actors’ abilities. Performances from Murphy and Wiseman were nuanced and gave a depth to their characters that the previous awkwardness could not withstand. Baryshnikov was a lovely Salomé. Her line delivery was sometimes difficult to absorb but her characterization was otherwise sound. As expected, her dancing was gorgeous and metaphorically appropriate for the production.
Salomé’s ending shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. This Bible story has been done to death, as it were… And yet, watching the audience react to the modest gore on stage last Sunday was a bit like watching videos capturing reactions to the Red Wedding. Bridge Rep applied just the right amount of fake blood; their prosthetics were believable enough to unsettle the stomach. It was wonderfully distracting.