The Happiest Medium Review by guest contributor Kate Mickere
Magazines and television often proclaim that a good makeover can be life changing. Women are constantly being told that a new hairstyle or designer dress will allow them to get over that boyfriend, get a new job and take over the world. While a new tube of lipstick hardly seems like proper therapy, sometimes a little care makes a huge difference. A trip to the spa transforms the woman in The Awakening (Story by Yakup Almelek, adapted for the stage by Annie Ward and presented by the Complete Theatre Company at Theatre Three).
The Awakening tells the story of Ayla (Gabriela Marcus), an awkward woman still consumed with grief over her father’s death fourteen years ago. Years of torture from her superficial relatives combined with her own depression and guilt have turned Ayla into a hopeless introvert. A new job at a medical clinic allows her to escape her kooky tyrant of a mother and make baby steps towards a normal, functioning life.
We follow Ayla on the next few months of her journey, rooting for her as she shakily feels her way around a more grown-up world. A jealous prank from her Hiltonesque cousin (Rachel Loebs) ruins Ayla’s progress as she loses her first boyfriend and barricades herself away for weeks. Stunning co-worker Bianca (Alexandra Hynes) rescues Ayla, forcing her to spend a weekend at an absurd spiritual day spa where they are taught to “fake it till they make it.” By pretending to be a confident, self-assured young woman, Ayla eventually becomes one. Ayla is the proverbial butterfly, transformed and free. She moves out of her mother’s house, finds romance and most importantly, learns to forgive herself.
The Awakening, written by Turkish playwright Yakup Almelek, was adapted and directed by The Complete Theatre Company’s founder and Artistic Director, Annie Ward. Even though the program describes the play as a “light-hearted coming of age drama,” one can’t quite be sure about the intended style of the piece. At times, the play is serious and at others, farcical. The heartbreaking opening scene, in which we witness a fourteen year old Ayla losing her father on a stormy night at sea, sets the pace for the rest of the play. The ensuing silliness just seems out of place after such a dark beginning. While comedy is appreciated, some of the cast’s cartoonish performances don’t always fit with the serious nature of the play.
With a cast of seventeen, The Awakening is a large undertaking. Unfortunately, the crowded stage doesn’t allow some of the smaller, funnier parts enough time. Jo Anne Sellars (Abigail) is sweet and funny as the cantankerous old maid. Sandra Coehlo is a scream as Guru Mama Mundaka, the over-the-top spiritual healer. Rachel Loebs and Alexandra Hynes also both shine in their supporting roles.
The Awakening is a sweet play that highlights the difficulties of families and growing up. While this premiere production has some missteps with timing and style, there is heart at the core of this piece. Leaving the theatre, one can’t help feeling elated over Ayla’s success.
Directed & Produced by Annie Ward July 7th – July 18th, 2010 Theater Three
311 West 43 rd St.
New York, NY 10036 Tickets are $22 To reserve tickets CALL: 646.784.3571 or CLICK HERE