Hollywood Fringe 2017
Two sisters weigh the pros and cons of cryogenically freezing themselves.
More than anyone else, siblings are probably the most likely to shout at each other, “You always do that!” Years of a certain repeated behavior, going back to childhood even, never seem to go away. And while there’s not much shouting in the world premiere of “A Void,” there’s plenty of delicious family drama (and comedy) bubbling beneath the surface in this highly-original new work by Kirsten Kearse.
The premise is a compelling one: Judith (Rachel Sondag), after a long time of battling depression seeks to be cryogenically frozen for a year or two, hoping to be awoken refreshed and ready to continue living. It’s less scary and finite than suicide anyway. Accompanying her to the doctor’s office is her more flamboyant and extroverted sister Rita (Mary Holland) who takes such liberties as sitting in the doctor’s chair and half-eating some of his hard candy then wrapping it back up before putting it back in the jar. Recently separated from her husband, Rita slowly starts to think that cryogenically freezing herself for a couple years might not be such a bad a idea, a notion that annoys Judith who wants to be frozen for less superficial reasons.
Holland is fantastic as the supportive, but ultimately self-centered, Rita who’s made a life-long habit of trying to claw her way into anything her older sister wants to do, whether it’s cryogenics or tennis club. Holland and Sondag’s relationship is air-tight and nuanced. You believe these sisters care about each other, despite their differences, and you can watch them anticipate each other’s next moves. As the doctor lacking the human touch, Timm Sharp is natural as soil; he might be a top-rate doctor, but he’s a half-rate salesman. The ensemble is rounded out by Frances Chewning and Arne Gjelten who are fine in their roles as staff members at the clinic (and faces of the clinic’s TV ads), but whether or not their parts are necessary to the whole of the story is up for debate.
As playwright and director, Kirsten Kearse, has done a great job conceiving a world where science fiction takes a backseat to modern-day struggles and desires. That world is enhanced mightily by Bill Coleman’s convincing production design and Meghan Czerwinski’s costume design which aptly captures the personality of each character.
For those seeking new and original plays this Fringe season, A Void is a must for your list. ZACHARY BERNSTEIN