Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA
through August 11, 2013
by Walt Haggerty
With the aid of a quartet of exceptionally gifted actors, Amherst author Annie Baker, has created an amusing and touching comedy that provides a most enjoyable evening of theatre. “Body Awareness” takes the audience behind the scenes of a more than slightly unconventional modern American nuclear family.
Phyllis is a college professor responsible for a five-day “Body Awareness” campus event. She and her partner, Joyce, are hosting Frank, a photographer whose photos of female nudes are being exhibited on campus as part of the program. Jared, Joyce’s 21-year old son, who may or may not be suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome, completes the quartet.
Through the astute direction of Knud Adams, the idiosyncrasies’ of each of the characters are unveiled, mostly with kindness and understanding, and always with humor. The tension between judgment and empathy is played out in different ways, with empathy the clear winner.
Caitlin McDonough-Thayer as Phyllis is a not quite secure, controlling partner to Jennifer Rohn’s Joyce, who thinks she has the courage to pose nude. Bruce McKenzie, as Frank, presents the strong, stalwart male image, with two failed marriages in his wake, dispensing fatherly advice to Jared. David Rosenblatt, as Jared, delivers an outstanding performance – immature, confused, and exceptionally bright. Jared is, in many ways, the most interesting character in the group.
Put them together and the result is an amusing, perceptive observation of life in today’s world, expertly presented with warmth and affection.
Annie Baker’s talent has drawn high praise from New York critics following several Off Broadway productions of her work. She is the recipient of an OBIE Award for Best New American Play, as well as nominations for a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award. Ms. Baker’s plays have been performed in more than 100 theatres throughout the U.S.A., Europe, and South America.