The title for the current production at City Theatre is The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead. For some of us that could suggest a lightweight comedy and, since it is a one-woman show, it could mean something bordering on stand-up comedy. Moreover many one-person shows turn out to be not very dramatic, even if charming with a lot of attention given to how that person can pull off everything convincingly, making it look effortless. However this play and the performances by Michele Pawk emerge as a remarkable and impressive theatrical experience on every level.
The script by Robert Hewett comes full of major substance and invention, engaging you not only in how it develops, or in its emotional effect, but also in stimulating you to fill in implied elements of the story. Think of it as a first-rate invention heightened by amusing and sometimes eloquent writing. Certainly Michele Pawk leaves a stunning impression of versatility and talent. But foremost she and director Lou Jacob make the best of the script. She interprets seven characters. And she does that so well that you are bound to think of the characters as separate, distinct individuals, rather than as an actress changing wigs and costumes. Director Jacob must be credited for bringing out, shaping and emphasizing the best of Hewett’s words and ideas through Pawk’s interpretations.
In the ingenious script, all the characters consecutively connect to each other. The details of the story become gradually revealed, as if you are encouraged to use your imagination to figure out what is not being said or how unseen persons are related to what has been happening. Red-headed Rhonda’s husband Graham abruptly informs her that he is moving out. Her brunette friend and neighbor Lynette tells her that she has seen Graham with a blonde. Graham visits Dr. Alex Ducette, a lesbian who, with her partner, have a son, Matthew. Pawk plays each of the roles as well as Tanya, the blonde and Mrs. Carlyle who lives next door to Alex and Matthew.
In The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead a tragic event is the focus of what these characters tell to anyone who will listen, in this case the audience. This inventively suggests the multi-dimensional views of the same story, somewhat like Rashomon. But it has goes further than simple story-telling to reveal more about these people, including Lynette’s shallowness and Graham’s vulgarity. By the way, in case you need to know it, Graham’s language is full of profanity. There is also a graphic description of how someone’s head has been cracked open. And, tellingly, note in the final episode scenic designer Tony Ferrieri’s insertion of a floor mop bucket with a warning on it.
Pawk superbly makes each of the characters distinct, so much so that, justifiably, you think not about what she’s doing but about these people. Don’t look for and think about this as a tour de force, think of it as extraordinary theatre brought off by two exceptional interpreters, Pawk with director Jacob plus one fine writer, Robert Hewett.
The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead continues through May 30th at City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, South Side 412/ 431 CITY (2489). ww.citytheatrecompany.org