Sunday, December 4, 2022

Review of "The Brightest Light in the World" - Yale Repertory

Relationships can be joyful.  They can be tough.  And messy.  In playwright Leah Nanako Winkler’s sufficing world premiere, The Brightest Light in the World, we are introduced to two women in their early 30’s.  Lane (Katherine Romans), outgoing and inquisitive, runs a bakery in Lexington, KY.  Steph (Michele Selene Ang), more reserved, is a daily customer.  In a series of quick scene resets, playfully staged by Director Margot Bordelon, the women strike up a friendship that develops into a tentative, then all-in romantic connection.  After their first blissful night, entrenched and difficult revelations are disclosed, with the thrust being Lane’s battle with drug addiction.


Through their trials and tribulations, they manage to forge ahead with their relationship.  Lane’s sister, Della (Megan Hill) - motivator, friend, big sister, mother figure - is always around as she deals with her own life issues.  Ultimately, the pull of addiction proves, maddeningly, too much for all involved, leading to anguish, bitterness and pain.


Ms. Winkler has penned a show that mixes humorous bantering with poignant heartache.  Her characters are slightly askew, lost, trying to find their purpose and place in society.  The playwright’s portrayal of drug addiction is multi-faceted and not, as she states in the program notes, “like the typical awards-bait portrayals of ‘addicts’ we have all seen in film, tv and theater.”


There is a lot of talk as the 100 minute, intermission-less show moves forward.  Director Bordelon, looking to vary the dramatic arc of the story, incorporates such devices as wild dancing, to minimal effect. The considerable amount of speechifying and at times spirited, but more often, conventional interplay between the characters doesn’t always provide dynamic theater.


The three actors - Katherine Romans (Lane), Michele Selene Ang (Steph), Megan Hill (Della) - have a solid, believable chemistry.  Sometimes they are overly expressive and loud, but these are sensitive, somewhat damaged individuals.  Ms. Bordelon, rightfully so, occasionally steers the portrayals in an over-the-top manner as a statement of the character’s exultations to the heavens that they are vibrantly alive.


Scenic Designer Cat Raynor’s sets of the bakery and Della’s living room are handsomely detailed.  Lighting Designer Graham Zellers’ twinkling skyscape adds a meditative quality to the production. 


The Brightest Thing in the World, playing at the Yale Repertory Theatre through December 17.  Click here for dates, times and ticket information.


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