Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 20, 2014


TheaterWorks, Hartford, CT
through November 9, 2014
by Shera Cohen

Some reviewers take notes during a production. Some reviewers use special pens that double as flashlights -- useful for writing in the dark and very annoying to fellow audience members. Some reviewers take no notes. This reviewer tends to fall into the first category. Those productions that make the short list are exceptional because the last thing for a reviewer to think about is to interrupt the concentration, understanding, and personal connection by clicking a pen and trying to find the next clean page of a notebook. “Annapurna” is the latest entry in the third (and best) group.

Two characters, ex-marrieds, hold this one-act play together as its audience hopes for a second act, third, or the rest of the characters’ lives. While no blood is shed, sweat and tears fill the stage from start to finish, and at the same time softened by humor. Debra Jo Rupp portrays the ex-wife who walks into her former husband’s trailer unannounced 20 years after she walked out, and Vasili Bogazianos dons the apron of a poor slob -- at first. Crisp, short, funny scenes with blackouts between each open the story. Mixing Rupp’s dead-pan responses to Bogazianos’ broad and often salacious remarks kick off what will soon become a see-saw of jibes, love, hurt, love, secrets, and love.

Debra Jo Rupp & Vasili Bogazianos
The actors make it obvious that this woman and man have each gone through their own versions of hell, separately and together. Yet, “obvious” is a misnomer. The actors, along with director Rob Ruggiero, have accomplished unbelievably difficult work in creating what is seemingly “obvious.” At the fulcrum of the verbal and sometimes physical see-saw is another character, unseen but ever-present. The exes’ conversations (and silences) about this third player bring him to life. No easy task to fulfill.

Another “character,” albeit not living or breathing, is the set design by Evan Adamson. Every bit of “decor,” from the minutia of the location of a filthy burnt pan to the large unmade bed strewn with smelly blankets (well, they looked smelly) is exact.

After the play, a young patron was overhead saying, “It was so much like real life I forgot it was theatre.”