When it comes to black box productions, sometimes the material is even darker than the performance space.
Theatre at Arts Garage takes this concept to heart for its first play in its brand-new black box. Reborning, a 2010 psychological thriller by Zayd Dohrn, is set in present day Queens, New York and follows Kelly, an artist with an unsettling past, an inability to cope with the present, and a special talent for crafting realistic baby dolls. Her clientele ranges from collectors to bereaved parents who want a tactile keepsake of their late child. When one such client, Emily, pushes Kelly to make her doll as perfect as possible, Kelly spirals into a neurotic episode that frightens her boyfriend, Daizy, and unearths issues from her own troubled childhood.
|Nicholas Wilder (Daizy), Elizabeth Price (Kelly), and Deborah Kondelik (Emily) star in Theatre at Arts Garage’s Reborning. Photo by Kay Renz|
Though Reborning clocks in at just more than an hour, director Keith Garsson is able to push his cast and the script to uncomfortable dramatic heights that elicit strong audience reactions—exactly what cutting-edge theater is suppose to do.
To say the story carries a lot of emotional weight would be a gross understatement. Reborning is not a carefree, light-hearted theatrical experience—quite the opposite in fact. Though playwright Dohrn sprinkles his script with comedic moments (mostly delivered by “son of hippie parents” Daizy), he is predominantly concerned with exploring the residual effects of festering personal issues and how they manifest in interpersonal relationships. This undercurrent is difficult for audiences to digest, but even more difficult for actors to convey. Thankfully, the Arts Garage cast is up to the challenge.
Theatre at Arts Garage veteran Elizabeth Price puts her all into her portrayal of Kelly. Price does not shy away from Kelly’s shortcomings, thereby making her gradual spiral very believable. From her first moment on stage when she habitually sparks a joint before starting her work to her final scene when she reverts to an infantile emotional state, Price exudes a dependency—first on substances, then on her work, and finally on her palpable feelings of inadequacies—that makes the whole script sing.
|Nicholas Wilder (Daizy), Deborah Kondelik (Emily), and Elizabeth Price (Kelly) star in Theatre at Arts Garage’s Reborning. Photo by Kay Renz|
This being a three-person play, there is no place for any actor to hide, and Price’s compatriots match her performance with equal dedication. As Daizy, Nicholas Wilder plays to some millennial stereotypes but makes the character realistic through his tenderness toward Price. Emily acts as the catalyst to Kelly’s unraveling, and actress Deborah Kondelik is the perfect prodder. Kondelik nails the emotion of a grieving mother, but doesn’t go overboard with it. She simultaneously lends a delicacy to the role that keeps the audience from blaming all of Kelly’s issues on Emily.
As with its cast, Reborning asks a lot of its audience. You must be willing to follow the actors on their emotional journey, but if you jump headfirst and with abandon you will be justly rewarded.
Theatre at Arts Garage presents Reborning in its black box through February 14. For more information visit artsgarage.org