The Dark Side of Women in VITAL SIGNS at Barley Sheaf

by Lila Achuff

The cast of VITAL SIGNS: (l. to r.) Karen Lammey, Rose-Marie Abi-Richa, Elizabeth Wheeler, Lindsay Franklin, Emma Harbert, Christine Kozsuch, Nora Holler, Sherry Snyder, Maria Jarrell, Cindy Schneider, Christine Robinson, Katie Farnum, and Bonnie Schuman. (Madeline Bender not pictured.)

Please don’t let the word “dark” put you off from seeing this series of 28 very short monologues presented by 14 extremely talented women who love to act, seem so comfortable onstage and it shows! There is no connection between the episodic events they’re portraying and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that some are very bizarre and sad, yet some are rather poignant and thought provoking. The performances of the women are so outstanding (e.g., Christine Kozsuch in “Fried Chicken” … OMG) that perhaps we can get past the common thread throughout these monologues that “life is [not] just a bowl of cherries”. Kudos to director Andrea Grinwis for bringing together such an incredible cast of women who, because of their skills, made her job just a bit easier.

Many of us women, unfortunately, can relate to some of the dysfunctional vignettes exhibited on stage, but the author, Jane Martin (a pseudonym for the real her or him … so what’s that about, Jane?) in her/his book of the same name, chooses to not dwell on the brighter side of the female “condition”. Some of us, by nature, are actually happy, joyful, even wacky; some of us are just bursting with pride, with love, with warmth. But I understand that choices are made and Ms. Martin, just so you know, writes about women in gloomier circumstances.

On an up note, however, comedy is not lacking in these performances. First of all, it was opening night so F&F (family and friends) are laughing like crazy watching their significant others acting so differently from their normal way of being. Right? Secondly, sometimes life can be so downright depressing that we have to find, and see, the humorous side of an incident which is just about hanging off the edge. Perhaps it’s really nervous laughter because if not laughing, crying? Comic relief.

The bare stage with few props allowed the performances to really stand out. It was interesting to see some on deck reacting to the soliloquy on stage while hanging out in a framed doorway or window, awaiting their respective monologues. Also, in this manner they moved items with such ease that this helped it all to run so smoothly. Laura Shay at the piano played her own music for VITAL SIGNS. Nice.

Barley Sheaf in Lionville is a small theatre. Make certain there’s a seat there for you. But there’s vulgarity in this piece so…no kiddies.

VITAL SIGNS is a benefit for The Women’s Resource Center of Southeastern PA. It’s pay-what-you-will versus a set admission price
…a donation is requested.

Until the next show …

Book by Jane Martin
Directed by Andrea Grinwis
January 20-28, 2012
The Barley Sheaf Players
810 N. Whitford Rd.
Lionville, PA 19353

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el fly January 23, 2012 - 4:29 pm

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Jessica Martin January 25, 2012 - 8:54 pm

Are you familiar with Jane Martin’s earlier work,TALKING WITH …? I was privileged to be associated with it twice. It contains 11 longer monologues, and not all the women are so “dark.”

Lila Achuff February 1, 2012 - 5:08 pm

Yes, I should have referred to these particular monologues in this performance.


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