Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Honor KillingFlorida Studio Theatre
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Women Laughing Alone with Salad


Rachel Moulton and Michael Sweeney Hammond
Photo by Matthew Holler
The world premiere of Sarah Bierstock's Honor Killing is the bill of fare at Florida Studio Theatre's Gompertz Theatre, the final production of their winter Mainstage Series. With important assists from a slew of theaters, including Athena Theater in Denver, this play had its initial reading in the 2017 Richard and Betty Burdick Reading Series at FST and now receives a full production.

Honor Killing is about Allisyn Davis, writer for the New York Times, and her attempts to cover the killing of a woman by her family in Pakistan. The play takes place on three emotional planes: the reporting of the event, the emotional relationship between Allisyn and fellow writer Ben Adams, and Allisyn's personal back story. Right off we are thrown into the world of the event and efforts to gather information. The glide into the second world, Allisyn and Ben's history, does not flow as seamlessly as I might wish, but this is minor and perhaps can be adjusted as the play continues to stand on its own legs. From here on the movement between the various emotional arenas is excellent. The play examines the role of women in foreign countries and, most importantly, the righteousness of one culture interfering in another's deepest issues. At a fast paced 90 minutes, the play is gripping and my attention never wavered.

Rachel Moulton, so valuable in so many past FST productions, is excellent. The quirkiness of her last character in Heisenberg completely gone, and here she is a strong, forceful woman driven by forces we learn about during the play. Her chemistry with Michael Sweeny Hammond as Ben is strong, and he presents the character as virile yet not afraid to be open to love. J. Paul Nicholas playing four Pakistani characters is chameleon like, as he slips between them. Devon Ahmed is Mehreen, a Pakistani feminist and the moral center of the play for me, arguing that Allisyn lacks the authority to present this cultural issue to the outside world. William Langan is Edward Evans, Allisyn and Ben's editor and Maria Couch is Melissa Davis, Allisyn's sister.

This production's physicality is its life blood. Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay have created a wonderful set with varied playing spaces so that everything stays crystal clear. Costumes by Susan Angermann perfectly define culture and character. Lighting design by Thom Beaulieu and sound design by Thom Korp contribute to the excellence of the whole. Video and projection design by Rocco DiSanti are magnificent. They help clarify the electronic elements so much in use by characters communicating across great distances. All of this is under the control of Artistic Director Richard Hopkins as director. Keeping such a complex piece so utterly in focus is an achievement of the highest order.

Honor Killing is by far the best play presented by Florida Studio Theatre this season. They do so in a production that is perfectly realized. I hope the play and the production can have continued life.

Honor Killing, through May 25, 2018, at Florida Studio Theatre, Gompertz Theater, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.

Cast (in alphabetical order):
Mehreen: Devon Ahmed*
Melissa Davis: Maria Couch*
Ben Adams: Michael Sweeney Hammond*
Edward Evans: William Langan*
Allisyn Davis: rachel Moulton*
Abbas/Ijaaz/Zasar/Khan: J. Paul Nicholas*
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association


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