8:00pm • Friday, February 17, 2023 • Lydia Mendelssohn Theater
I had a fun evening attending Bonnets last Friday, although I was more impressed by the acting and production than the writing itself. My cast shout-outs go to God, played by Sophia Lane, Prudence, played by Kaylin Gines, and Valerie, played by Olivia Sinnott: partially because they were just my favorite characters, but also because the three actors filled their roles with particular verve. One thing I appreciated about the script was that each actor had their time to shine. Each character developed a type that, once placed in a scene with another, created surprising and entertaining dynamics, especially once the timelines became crossed.
The set, designed by Lance Vance (depicted in the image above), lent itself to the plot, with the overlapping frames above the three settings visualizing the colliding timelines. While unchanging, it remained dynamic by virtue of the way the actors interacted with it in many dimensions. The costumes, designed by Mallory Edgell, were similarly ingenious. Each character wore a period gown rendered in pale neutral fabric, save for a panel or two which were patterned in esoteric characters reflecting the playful sci-fi elements of the plot. I liked how the uniformity of the costumes, all of which used roughly the same fabric, unified the women’s narratives while the cut distinguished each character by period and class. The costume change in the end was also clever, evoking the punk movement of the 1990s and recentering the story in the present, where women continue to be “corseted” in contemporary ways.
This brings me to an element brought up in the panel discussion after the play which I found interesting. A question was posed to the panelists about how the play breaks barriers of representation, and two of the panelists answered frankly that they didn’t believe it did. I’m inclined to agree; the feminism of the play didn’t feel particularly radical. Perhaps the embrace of violence as a means of resistance was meant to be the element of surprise in the play, but it leaned a little too deeply into comedy for me to take it seriously. Overall, I wasn’t enamored with the particular brand of camp written into the script. I felt like, considering its themes, the play could have afforded to take itself a little more seriously, and ultimately the campiness came across more as a product of a rushed storyline.
Of course, none of this is to criticize the impressive cast and production staff who brought this performance together. Regardless of whatever issues I had with the script, I enjoyed the play immensely, congratulate the student actors who will be graduating shortly, and look forward to seeing the others again in future performances.