If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan
TheaterWorks Presents Moving “Annapurna”
TheaterWorks in Hartford offered one of the year’s best plays last season with its riveting production of Sharr White’s “The Other Place”. Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, not one to tamper with success, has now opened his 29th season with Mr. White’s latest play, “Annapurna”, and the results are, once again, a big win for theatergoers.
“Annapurna” is set among the Colorado mountains where cowboy-professor-poet Ulysses (Vasili Bogazianos) is living out a miserable existence in his dilapidated mobile home, a tank of oxygen strapped to his back. Years previously his wife, Emma (Debra Jo Rupp), walked out on him in the middle of the night taking their young son with her. Now hearing he’s in ill health and dire straits, Emma tracks Ulysses down to his grungy trailer and the mysteries involving their past relationship, including Emma’s abrupt desertion, come to light. This unexpected reunion brings out the couple’s best and worst qualities revealing and dissecting their marriage to its core with devastating results.
Running just 90 minutes without intermission and featuring only two actors, “Annapurna” would fumble greatly if the casting were not as strong as it is in Hartford. As Emma, the wonderful Debra Jo Rupp surpasses her exemplary work from last season at TheaterWorks where she played Dr. Ruth Westheimer in the solo show, “Becoming Dr. Ruth”. In “Annapurna” she transforms completely into the complicated and conflicted Emma and watching Rupp unravel layers of hurt and misunderstanding is watching an actress at her peak. And she may be even more effective when she is still, silently watching her stage partner, reacting to every single moment she sees, hears and feels. It’s a marvelous performance and in Mr. Bogazianos she has a co-star of equal gravity. His Ulysses is a sympathetic but never sentimental figure both complex and moving in an exceptional performance.
Director Rob Ruggiero, effortlessly in sync with Sharr White’s brilliant and beautiful play, stages “Annapurna” with all the love, care and delicacy it requires. Evan Adamson’s scenic design is meticulous in the amount of detail and specificity he has provided for Ulysses’ much-lived-in home. John Lasiter’s lighting and Amy Clark’s costuming can also not be faulted. “Annapurna” takes the layers in the life of a marriage and spins them into a drama that stays with you and haunts your memory. It also makes you appreciate superior writing. For a season-opener, this touching, mature love story could not be more memorable.
“Annapurna” continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through November 9. For further information or ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 860.527.7838 or visit: www.theaterworkshartford.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.