Presented by Huntington Theatre Company
By Winnie Holzman
Directed by Sheryl Kaller
Review by Travis Manni
(Boston, MA) I was stumbling through the rain this past Wednesday night in an outfit that wasn’t remotely appropriate rain attire. After stepping into the lobby of the Calderwood Pavilion, I couldn’t get the clinging wetness sensation off of me, but the second I walked into the theater, finally able to peel away my jacket, I was hit by a friendly warmth from the stage.
James Noone’s set design for Choice is so stunning, ripped straight out of a home décor magazine. The open space kitchen invites the audience into the show before it even begins and my friend and I joked that we should jump on stage and make ourselves comfortable; it was that inviting, like coming home after a commute in the rain.
The dynamic set, which transforms into multiple bedrooms, a restaurant, and a health clinic, wasn’t the only pleasantly unexpected part of the show. Winnie Holzman’s innovative and clever script was such a wonderful marriage of comedy and drama.
We meet middle-aged Zippy during a dinner with her much older husband, a hard-of- hearing man who likes to remind his wife that he won’t be around forever. Zippy’s longtime friend, Erica, and her non-significant boyfriend also enjoy the food, and Zippy’s fresh-out-of-college daughter, Zoe, soon joins for a post-meal game. Both Zippy and Erica work in the journalism field and discuss a cultish theory among certain women who believe that the spirit of their aborted babies can attach themselves to a fetus. Zippy wants to write a feature about the strange anomaly.
She hires an assistant, Hunter Rush, but as we learn more about Zippy’s past and the choices she made when she was younger, Hunter’s presence doesn’t seem as coincidental as previously believed. This creates a level of tension that teases at the supernatural.
So many facets of this debut production of Choice work cohesively together. The acting throughout the show in particular is one of its greatest strengths. Connie Ray as the bluntly honest Erica is such a treat. Her timing is so sharp that the show was paused for moments of boisterous laughter more times than I can count. Leading actress Johanna Day, who portrays the uncertain Zippy, also has such respect for the complex role that the audience never falls behind with her shifting doubts about life. And key players Madeline Wise as daughter Zoe and Raviv Ullman as Hunter both bring the youthful charm the
show needs to draw appeal to audiences of all ages.
The biggest struggles were the odd transition sequences that jolted the characters to the past. This only happens a handful of times, but the moments were in scene, and I didn’t understand that we were traveling backwards during these odd moments until the middle of act two
The theme of choice plays a significant role in the show, but I question whether or not it’s prominent enough to title the play. Still, Holzman has a clear grasp of her craft and conveys a paralleled sense of uncertainty that equates it to Doubt, the show she attributes as her inspiration for this piece. Intentionally or not, Holzman appears to be drawing from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, both of which revolve around a mother revisited by reincarnate memories of her past. She’s created a world that both intrigues and disrupts the norm, forcing the audience to question the idea of choice.
Choice runs for about 2 hours and 15 minutes with an intermission, and will have performances through November 15. To purchase tickets, click here. There are senior and student discounts available.