The Bright Side of "The Better Half"
Last night, by way of the brilliant minds of Julia Rhoads and Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, I was whisked away in a dance theater adaptation entitled “The Better Half.” The co-creators combined the storyline of the stage play, Gaslight, with excerpts from Scenes from Marriage, All the Real Girls, Flirt, Trust and The Borne Identity.
In a remarkably clever conceptualization, the authors’ writing allowed for whimsical allotments of discourse that ventured outside of the characters’ assigned roles in the story. Thus, there was a constant transition of apparent script and seemingly random conversation, enhanced by each actors’ dynamic personality.
During an insightful “Talk Back” session following the play, Rhoads explained, “It gave an opportunity to combine things that you’re supposed to say with things that you want to say.”
All the while, the actors shifted though a healthy dose of choreographed dance and intricate technique, which highlighted their strength and versatility as performers.
The main characters, Mr. and Mrs. Manningham—played by Adrian Danzig and Julia Rhoads—showed an intense portrayal of marriage through struggle, and a longing to stay connected, in spite of it all.
Throughout the play, the couple repeats a series of actions that become increasingly aggressive due to frustrations in the relationship. An irritated husband and perplexed wife are surrounded by a community of intuitive individuals—played by Fancisco Avina, David Lakein and Meghann Wilkinson—representing both barriers and support to the troubled matrimony.
As the Manningham’s relationship unraveled, the audience remained in a constant state of suspense. In the play’s culminating moments, both the audience and the performers felt a sense of resolution, but only after having gone through a whirlwind of emotions.
One audience member stated her excitement regarding how, in the end, she was able to connect the pieces of the puzzle to appreciate the play as a whole.
For Fancisco Avina, who played Nancy, the play offered the perspective of being given a deck of cards and finding joy in it.
Similarly, Meghann Wilkinson, who played Elizabeth, sighted a significant message in the play being to find satisfaction in what you’re handed in life.
Perfectly in line with the intricacies of the storyline, the play comes to a close, begging one question of many, “Do you think we are living in utter confusion?”
Certainly, this is a question liable to be posed at some point throughout our lives, making “The Better Half” as relevant as an inventive adaptation could get.
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