Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: Marsha

"Marsha" playwright Alan Harris

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 13, 10 p.m.
Wednesday, July 17, 6 p.m.
Friday, July 19, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 20, 12:15 a.m.

They say: "Marsha is locked in a cage. She waits and waits and then it happens. A humorous, honest and startling account of the world through the eyes of a young girl as she discovers the truth about beauty."

Cara's Take: Marsha is an enigma. While she presents herself as a child, it's impossible to know from the performance whether that's true. She mentions a mother, who never appears.

The plot is simple: a girl talks to us about her life in a small town and walks through her day. During this time, she meets three adults and a baby. The day ends tragically for all involved.

There are elements of fantasy and fairy tale, but Marsha keeps returning to that person, possibly a child, living a typical day and choosing to do something devastating, possibly without understanding her own motives or the consequences of her actions.

In this one-woman play, Julia Thomas gives a strong performance in a role that she and her director have written. Some of her transitions between characters in a dialogue were a little rough in that she would begin a new character's speech from the physical attitude of the prior character — especially true in the scene where Marsha is doting over the baby– but her overall ability to change her demeanor to reflect the speaker of the moment helped tremendously in understanding the play. Thomas manages most of it through simple nuances of expression proving her excellent technique and training.

The character of Marsha herself seems to thrive on tall tales whether it’s a huge order of sweets from the shop or her belief in a local unicorn, and Thomas sells those moments of belief.

The sound mix felt too loud for the space, although the trick of having Marsha herself provide most of the sound cues with a cassette player slung from her shoulder is inventive. Before the play begins, there are quotations from Genesis blended with music over the speaker system.

The lighting work is well done, and the use of tap lights on the stage illustrates Marsha's isolation. A flashlight — tucked into a pocket when not in use — becomes many different objects from the moon rising to a baby in its carriage.

Thematically, I was disappointed. I didn't think "discovers the truth about beauty" would mean facial and physical beauty. Nor did I find much humor in the stark portrayal of Marsha's interactions. This play is bleak.  If it's trying to say we're all evaluated exclusively on our looks, it didn't succeed.  Marsha has too many flaws of personality and understanding for that to be her only failing.  If the play is trying to make us sympathize with Marsha as an isolated child, it didn't succeed there either.  Her interactions with Mrs. Hall and Mr. MacDonald show that she's not entirely isolated and much of it seems to be self-imposed.

See it if: You want to see an actor switch deftly among multiple roles

Skip it if: Bleakness is a problem for you.

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