Sunday, September 26, 2010


Sarah Ruhl's smooth, respectful adaptation of Virginia Woolf's most playful work, Orlando (directed by Rebecca Taichman), is in some ways a play, in other ways a dramatic reading, and in still other ways a tone poem. Its split personality is apt for the story of a duke who wakes up one day to find that he--she--has become a duchess. Woolf wrote Orlando in honor of one of her great loves, Vita Sackville-West, and used the book to examine relationships, feminism, gender roles, and politics. She also made concrete (and romantic and sexy) Sackville-West's straddling of gender roles as a soft-butch lesbian (or "confirmed sapphist," as Woolf once described her).

Ruhl relies heavily on Woolf's own writing, which is a wise decision since Woolf's work is beautiful, evocative, and often funny. Much of the "dialogue" is actually narration, and Annie-B Parson has choreographed various series of moves that gracefully support the language. With the exception of one performer, the entire cast depicts both men and women, taking Woolf's gender play one step further. The expert performers are led by the subtle, sexy, extraordinary Francesca Faridany, who plays 16-year-old boy and middle-aged woman with equal elegance.

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