“WHADDABLODCLOT?” Whaddashow! Keep the name of prize-winning playwright Katori Hall in your memory bank. If you see a title by this excellent author, run, don’t walk, to the production. And that includes her current work being presented at Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Nikos Stage.
First, this play and that venue were made for each other. The intimacy of that attractive little theater matches perfectly the play’s personal, intimate, yet universal themes of self-discovery and appreciation of the world around you, the world you create for yourself through self-knowledge.
Second, the cast here, with intelligent direction by May Adrales, keeps the audience rapt, waiting to get to the next thing that may or may not happen, yet savoring every moment with relish. Believe me, there is nothing predictable about this piece.
WHERE: Williamstown Theatre Festival, Route 2, Williamstown, Mass.
WHEN: Through Aug. 19
HOW MUCH: $45-$35
MORE INFO: 413-597-3400 or www.wtfestival.org
Its essence lies in the fact that about 60 people in the world have suffered from what is known as FAS, or Foreign Accent Syndrome. The program explains that after a traumatic event, an accident or a physical disturbance, such as a stroke, a person may suffer a physiological change and speak with a different accent than they had before the event.
Sound like fiction? According to the program, it’s not. And I think somewhere, back in the dark recesses of that computer I call my brain, I have heard of such a thing. Maybe you have too. Anyway, that’s where the story starts, but that is certainly not where it ends.
Tina Benko plays Eden Higgenbotham, a world-class, perfectly spoken, very rich, Fifth Avenue socialite. She happens to be head of the tenant association that says yea or nay to certain people who wish to rent apartments in the exclusively fashionable co-op.
As it happens music superstar Béyoncé and her rapper husband are under consideration. Béyoncé (Carolyn Michelle Smith) is, of course, a big celebrity, and celebrities are OK. Woody Allen was sort of OK, even though he married the adopted daughter of his longtime girlfriend. But Béyoncé is a different matter altogether for Eden. She argues that Beyonce’s husband has a drug past, but her real concern, unspoken but clearly there, is that Béyoncé is black.
In arguing the demerits of this particular star, Eden gets so worked up that she suffers a stroke. When she wakes up in her hospital room, her doctor is thrilled to discover that she has had no apparent physical damage—her arms and legs work perfectly. He is also thrilled to discover that she has experienced FAS. She now speaks like a “Jamaican Rasta-woman.” She has gone from “Oprah to Bob Marley and the Wailers.” The rest of the story asks “What will she do with it?”
What she does as she goes from the hallowed aisles of Chanel to a speech therapist to 125th Street and finally to a FASA (Foreign Accent Syndrome Anonymous) meeting (one of the funniest scenes in modern theater) is find redemption — but what a glorious redemption.
I offer my sincerest kudos to the entire ensemble, but special mention goes to fight director Lisa Kopitsky, dialect/vocal coach Shane Ann Younts and production stage manager Jenny Dewar for their gifted handling of some difficult transitions.