Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Imogen Says Nothing
Also see Fred's review of Sunset Baby
Imogen (Ashlie Atkinson) was a character in Shakespeare's First Folio edition of Much Ado About Nothing, existing as the wife of Leonato of Messina. She had no voice. Kapil, who was once cast as Imogen in a college production of Much Ado, became very much intrigued with this woman. Remember that during William Shakespeare's Elizabeth era, all roles on stage were given to men. With that in mind at the very least, consider the play.
The town Imogen lived in, formerly called North Burcombe, is now named Quaere. She is walking (perhaps in search) when she comes a group of actors who are soon to perform. They include John Heminges (Christopher Ryan Grant) and Henry Condell (Hubert Point-Du Jour). John is too drunk to take the stage in Much Ado About Nothing so Imogen is given the opportunity to go on in order to keep him from toppling over. Thus, she is something of a maverick. Henry Condell is convinced to keep Imogen in the script. Actor Daisuke Tsuji plays Shakespeare, who is also in transit with this troupe.
The company must find another performance locale and, moving along, finds itself in the company of a Bear on Ice (Zenzi Williams). This bear and four others are in captivity. Bear-baiting was evidently something that occurred during Shakespeare's time in England. We discover that Imogen herself was a bear who must have become human, too. She is concerned for the welfare of the bear contingent, hopes they can escape their plight, and is herself seized. At the very end of this awe-inspiring but sometimes confounding work, Imogen fully and loudly expresses herself.
Imogen Says Nothing is a play about emancipation concerning: women, bears and ,metaphorically, those enslaved. The playwright researched first and then sculpted her script. Laurie Woolery, directing, utilizes the entire stage. For the set, Claire Marie DeLiso furnishes grids, scaffolding, and wooden floor boards. The entire creative team is essential and that includes Haydee Zelideth, who costumes the show beautifully, and fight director Rick Sordelet.
Ashlie Atkinson is quite galvanic. She moves from a yearning but strong woman to, well, a bear. Her range is staggeringly impressive. She exercises deft control of the characters. Taken as an ensemble, the quality of acting throughout the performance is exemplary. It is important to mention all of the actors playing the bears: Zenzi Williams as Bear on Ice; Thom Sesma as Harry Hunks; Christopher Ryan Grant as Ned Whiting; and Ricardo Davila and Christopher Geary who personify The Fluffies.
A talented group of individuals devised and created this performance. Leading them is playwright Kapil, delving into history and applying imaginative touch. Still, it is a stretch to take in and fathom all of this in during one viewing. The idea is to go with it. Imogen Says Nothing is a play which speaks of liberation. The plot twists cannot possibly be anticipated. The author and director, however, open creative faucets of expression. It all might seem like too much, but editing would limit the effectiveness of the presentation. The play invites an activist audience, one which is willing to open up, to slide along with author Kapil. Yes, it is bizarre, but definitely not haphazard. Welcome to a new, strong, daring play.
Imogen Says Nothing continues at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut through February 11th, 2017. For tickets, call (203) 432-1234 or visit yalerep.org.