The “holiday season” has officially begun, and theaters in the area are unwrapping their holiday goodies. But the December show I’m most looking forward to has nothing to do with the season.
It’s Bright Half Life, at Silverthorne Theater Company. Tanya Barfield’s brief two-character play looks at the span of a relationship through a kaleidoscopic lens – not as an arc but in an ever-changing firmament of fleeting moments.
The title applies the physical principle of the evolving stability of an atom to this romantic pairing – with perhaps another implication drawn from physics, the impossibility of observing something without changing it.
The play charts a long-term lesbian relationship in all its ups and downs, ins and outs, performed on a bare stage and unfolded in brief vignettes that jump back and forth in time, each new scene triggered by a memory or an implied premonition.
In this production, directed by Gina Kaufmann, Kyle Boatwright and Katie Mack play Vicki and Erica, “queer women living at a time, not very long ago, when marriage wasn’t legal for them,” the director told me recently. “One of them is Black and one is white, and those identities overlap with their identities as queer women.”
Those dual identities are key to Silverthorne’s choice of the play. Like many theaters across the country, last year’s summer of rage in the wake of George Floyd’s murder prompted a re-evaluation of aesthetic priorities – an urgency only underlined by the industry’s white/straight/male-dominated history. This work by a queer Black woman playwright, inserted into the previously scheduled season, signals the company’s response to “the glaring need for plays by under-represented voices,” according to co-founder Lucinda Kidder.
“I love this play,” Kaufmann said, “because it is about two women who feel real to me and who I can wholly root for. The play asks whether love, even huge soulmate love, even love that includes family and kids, is enough to give our lives meaning.”
Bright Half Life, Dec. 3-5 & 10-11, Silverthorne Theater Company at the Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, Greenfield. Tickets here.
Collage by Sophie Schweik
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