Tracing Lines of Humanity in “Brilliant Traces”

Photo credit: Kyler Taustin

Photo credit: Kyler Taustin

Presented by Brown Box Theatre Project
By Cindy Lou Johnson
Directed by Kyler Taustin

June 4-12, 2016
All performances are free to the public
Atlantic Wharf, 290 Congress Street
Boston, MA
Brown Box Theatre Project on Facebook

Review by Travis Manni

(Boston, MA) A remote cabin in Alaska during a treacherous snowstorm is the perfect setup to isolate the characters in Cindy Lou Johnson’s Brilliant Traces. And while having one of these two people burst in wearing a wedding gown was quite shocking, what was even more captivating about this play was the emotional depths to which it was willing to plunge.

Henry Harry (Spencer Parli Tew) lives alone in a cabin in Alaska. He is a reserved man and easily agitated by the griping questions that an unexpected visitor Rosannah (Laura Menzie) poses. Rosannah showed up at Henry’s doorstep in a wedding gown in a bit of a manic state. She proceeded to fall asleep for two days, and when she wakes up the two talk and find they have a great deal in common. Both are suffering from different types of losses and grapple with their own psychological unravelling to reveal the true nature what it means to be human.

Spencer Parli Tew as Henry is charming yet anxious and portrays a great amount of hesitance to parallel his cabin’s isolation with his own isolation from society. And Laura Menzie was fearless as Rosannah, able to both stand her ground with confidence and break herself down to become a confused woman, questioning the reality of her existence, only further confirming her humanity. Both actors were able to peel away at the psychologically complex layers of their characters, both of which are desperate, yet terrified, to feel love and human connection.

The set design for the cabin had a nice handmade feel to it; uneven slats of wooden boards as walls and a wooden table were enough to ground the scenes in a cold, deserted wilderness. But this show suffered from location. Plopped in the middle of a lobby, the sound of doors slamming open and shut and banging dishes in some nearby kitchen became a consistent distraction and often drew me out of various scenes. My only other gripe with the show was opening with a misleading comedic tone. Rosannah bursts into the cabin in a frenzied panic, but the show escalates into a dramatic examination of human emotions and alienation. Still, Brilliant Traces was a provocative experience that shamelessly delves into the complex thoughts we all have when we wonder what it means to be human, and what happens when we start to believe that maybe we aren’t.

Brilliant Traces runs for 90 minutes and will host productions at the Atlantic Wharf through June 12 and have a brief tour in Maryland June 16-20. For ticket and location info, click here. All tickets are free and open to the public.

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