I've never reviewed a play before nor ever had the desire to do so, but Friday night changed my perspective on that front. I went to check out a play at Venus Theatre in Laurel, Maryland and fell in love with the venue. It's a tiny storefront with a lobby filled with local artists' work. And then an intimate stage/seating set up in the back. It's a theatre lover's dream.
The play I saw Friday night was No. 731 Degraw-street, Brooklyn, or Emily Dickinson’s Sister. It was, in a word, intense. From the theatre's website:
"Virginia Woolf imagined a sister for Shakespeare, an artist chastened for her gender and derided for her vision. Unable to act or write, she “killed herself one winter’s night and lies buried at some cross-roads.” Claudia Barnett imagines a similarly metaphorical sister for Emily Dickinson. Kate Stoddard was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1847, about a hundred miles from the reclusive Amherst poet."
I was intrigued, as an former English major and a lover of Emily Dickinson's poetry and especially because the lead actress was a dear friend from high school, who I had acted with before.
The play was two acts, with the first describing Kate's life up until the tragic event around which the story is based. The second lays bare the fall-out and consequences of the protagonist's choices. There are very hard moments to watch, which include domestic violence. The play is not for younger audiences.
But through the violence and absolutely gorgeous writing, lays a character who had nothing but love to give. Who was sacrificed and tortured for being a woman who chose another life than the standard "Angel in the House" trope for women in the Victorian era. Kate Stoddard was a woman who made violent choices, to be sure, but some could say were the result of self-defense, both against a violent partner and against a society that confined and trapped women.
The show runs until the beginning of December and all proceeds fund this wonderful nonprofit organization. A highly recommended play!