Play Review: Slowgirl

 

1375916416_SlowgirlThere’s something about watching two actors onstage with minimal set design that makes one sit up and listen – really listen to what they are saying, as layers upon layers of mistakes and regrets are peeled one after another off a broken man’s back by his brash 17-year old niece. In my case, at least, it also made me realize just how much I have missed watching such riveting performances and just how much I love them.

Slowgirl is a 2-actor play that’s set in the Costa Rican jungle, where parrot calls, cricket songs and the scratching of the iguanas upon the tin roof are broken by the unabashed words of a 17-year old to an uncle she hasn’t seen since she was seven  years old.  When the play opens, we see Sterling, played by William Petersen (Gil Grissom of CSI) fixing a stack of books  in his little casa set in the Costa Rican jungle.  There really isn’t much to do here, and we see that as Sterling picks out a book to read, settles carefully into his hammock and reads till he falls asleep.  I bet that’s how his life is like every day – when Sunday just seems like a Monday and Monday seems like a Tuesday, and so on…

When Rae Gray’s Becky arrives, she startles her uncle awake and from here on, you see that this girl is a motormouth – go, go, go with her mouth, and now and then, she’ll even throw in a word or two that jars you back to reality and makes you wonder if 17-year old kids really do talk like this (they do).  In my case and at least for my companion, it was always a sexually related word, and maybe it was hearing it being spoken from a 17-year old character that made some people in the audience flinch a little, but I found it refreshing to hear it uttered in a play – plus it proved to be a ‘tell’ for her vulnerability (at least to me).

Rae-Gray-and-William-Petersen-in-Slowgirl-Steppenwolf-Theatre

Becky, we find out, has been sent to Costa Rica by her mother, Sterling’s sister, even though she really shouldn’t be out of the country because of a harrowing accident that’s currently under investigation for.  With her own father unable to look at her at the dinner table and a mother used to avoiding conflicts by simply, well, avoiding them, Becky now is in the hands of her uncle who has, it seems, fled the United States after his own set of seemingly-unfortunate events, and who has been living in the Costa Rican jungle for the last ten years, building trails and walking his hill-top labyrinth when he’s not reading books while swinging on his hammock.

Throughout the play, we see the characters slowly go through their individual journeys – though the journey that really matters here is Sterling’s.  For while Becky’s journey has just begun, Sterling seems to have surrendered to the notion that he will probably die in this tropical paradise, away from the only family he has, and even friends – by choice.  But is that a life worth living really, when everything else outside of you has just about gone to hell in a hand basket – where a young girl who has waited for him to come through with an empty promise seven years earlier is in dire need of a friend, and an ally?

Written by Greg Pierce, nephew of David Hyde Pierce, and directed by Randall Arney, Slowgirl stars William Petersen and Rae Gray, and is currently playing at the Geffen Playhouse till April 27.

Putting Slowgirl together with William Petersen and Rae Gray

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13 thoughts on “Play Review: Slowgirl

  1. I’ll be the one that says it….she doesn’t look seventeen. The play sounds enthralling, though. It makes me wish I went to the theater more, or that there was more theater where I went.

    1. It’s hard to be 17 and do what she as the actress has to do in this play though, so there was a bit of suspension of disbelief on my part, and I’m sure it was the same for everyone else. It was interesting, too, that I thought I’d be looking at Bill Petersen more and I ended up watching her more – but I think it was simply the way the performances were done, the power shifts and all that.

      But they were both solid though – through the whole 95 minute play, no intermissions, except for quick set and clothing changes.

      1. It’s been too long since I’ve seen a play like that. I would love to see Mr. Petersen on stage. What a treat! I’m sure she does a wonderful job. I shouldn’t have been catty. I know better. My sister would give me a good slap if she read it. She’s in her forties and still doing local theater in Salt Lake City. She always tells me it’s about what the actor can sell you, not about what you want to buy.

        1. It certainly was a treat! It’s like a play in the round, with seats on both sides of the stage, with less than a 100 seat capacity so an intimate play no less. Any discomfort on the part of the performer can be spotted immediately. I’ve resolved to watch more performances this year, not necessarily huge musicals as I’m kinda so over that but things like this, where the play IS the thing 🙂

        2. I LOVE theater in the round. There is a gorgeous, state of the art one in SLC and I’ve seen my sister do a few performances there. It sounds like it’s about the same size.
          I’m not over huge musicals..I’m dying to get to Broadway while they’re still reviving Pippen.

        3. I walked out of the last one – Les Miserables – though I left hubby inside since he had not seen it yet. But I had seen it 3 times before and one of them was on Broadway. The one that I walked out of was the newly redone one, so the changes surprised me and I didn’t want to see any more LOL

          I don’t know much about Pippen though. Gotta check that out.

        4. Pippen is classic seventies. I saw it first in high school and just loved it! I’ve heard they’ve put a Cirque du Soleil spin on it now. What changes did they make to Les Mis?

        5. They were changes in the production wherein they added the ship scene, which meant that some important scenes (to me) that expounded on character were removed. The first act was enough for me and I walked out because it left a play that did not make sense. Either that or I was so used to the play the way it was the last 3 times I had seen it.

          Cirque du Soleil spin means it will be a hit or miss. Some people either will love it or hate it 🙂 But I don’t remember seeing Pippen here in L.A. but I could have simply missed it.

  2. I like this kind of play also and I like the big musical productions least – almost not at all. Isn’t this the same theater where you were hoping to see The Birthday Party? How was Petersen’s performance?

    1. Yes, same venue, but it was held in the smaller theater next to the main one. Peterson was amazing. I had front row seats and he could see our reactions as much as I could see every expression on his face.

      1. Sounds wonderful.Lincoln Center, as you know, is like that- two theaters in the same space. So glad you enjoyed it. Nicely written review. Ans it’s good to WP acting again. I think he’s doing other things more often. like producing and directing.

    1. Her bangs sure helped her look young. For some reason, I was distracted by her butt though. She wore lots of short shorts and I kept thinking that I needed to do moe squats to get a derrière like that. I wish you’d been there, too! I actually want to see it again, but from the other side of the room

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