Monday, February 15, 2010

Lacy Project at Strand

The dynamic little theater on Charles Street, the Strand has devoted itself to the production of dramas by women and to the production of new and rarely staged works. In its current offering The Lacy Project by Alena Smith, it admirably fulfills both goals. The play reveals both the promise and limits of a young playwright only recently graduated from Yale's drama school. Focused on the hapless life of Lacy, a 22-year old woman closely tied to her dolls and to her mysterious photographer mother, the script explores various ways women are oppressed by their images: the unchanging doll, the MTV video harridan, the cute girl-in-the-red-ribbon who never quite grows up, the perpetual daughter, the bitter romantic rival to other women. When the play zeroes in on the conflict between Lacy, her hip-hop friend Giselle, and her suspiciously stolid roommate Charlotte, its feminist themes of oppression through gender stereotypes crackles. But when the dolls of Tracy come alive to perform their own battles over maternity and jealousy, the preachiness and the forced vulgarity become tiresome. There is nothing uneven in the production itself, tautly directed by Josh Bristol. The all-women ensemble of actors energetically pushes its characters to their self-destructive ends. Amelia Adams (Harriet) and Jen Anthony (Olivia) bring out the one-note vanity and sentimentality in their respective dolls-come-alive. As the unlikely lifelong friends, Lauren Lakis (Lacy) and Britt Olsen-Ecker (Giselle) accelerate their raw desperation as they plunge toward annihilation through sexual addiction, drug addiction, and gendered role-playing that destroys any unique self. In the evening's towering performance, Leah Raulerson (Charlotte) plays the reasonable, detached, hard-working roommate who gradually reveals herself as the most cunning manipulator of the lot. Her statuesque coolness amidst the desperation of the other characters gives the play's bitter conclusion its steely edge.