‘ALABASTER’ Gives Heartbreakingly Comic Premiere at Salt Lake Acting Company

Reanne+Acasio+prepares+to+film+Salt+Lake+Acting+Company%E2%80%99s+virtual+production+of%0A%22ALABASTER%22+by+Audrey+Cefaly.+%28Courtesy+Reanne+Acasio%29

Reanne Acasio

Reanne Acasio prepares to film Salt Lake Acting Company’s virtual production of “ALABASTER” by Audrey Cefaly. (Courtesy Reanne Acasio)

By Hannah Keating, Arts Editor

 

In their season of streaming productions, Salt Lake Acting Company recently produced Audrey Cefaly’s “ALABASTER,” which follows a photographer named Alice to Alabaster, Ala. to meet and photograph June, one of the women featured in her upcoming book of their traumatic, physical scars and their equally traumatic, heart-wrenching stories.

Theatre Technicalities

The play itself is constructed in a very minimal, yet impactful way. The several scenes set in one space shape the intimacy of the dialogue and the immediate conversational nature between June (Charlotte Munson) and Alice (Reanne Acasio). Both actresses are making their debut at SLAC, as are their co-stars Tamiyka White and Catherine Doherty, who play two goats on the Alabaster farm who are June’s companions. As strange as it sounds to have two actresses playing goats, it is intuitive and surprisingly personal — they know June’s heartaches more than anyone, and provide the audience with that insight.

“ALABASTER” is part of SLAC’s participation in The National New Play Network’s series of Rolling World Premieres, featuring plays that have been workshopped in various ways and are set to make their regional theatre debuts. It’s no surprise they chose Cefaly’s work — the play was featured in the 2019 Kilroys List, which promotes new and under-produced works by female, transgender and gender non-conforming playwrights in the American theatre, a lens that SLAC makes a point of incorporating in their seasons.

Under the direction of SLAC-familiar Martine Kei Green-Rogers, the show takes on such a life, even through my two-dimensional, 11-inch laptop screen. While all of the actors were filming and performing remotely, the technical team on the production orchestrated props, costumes, backdrops and even makeup from across the country. To design the makeup for June’s scars across her back, makeup artist Kelly Donahue worked through an onsite assistant who applied the detailed makeup to Munson’s body.

Reality of the Play

The story is dark, but comic — fitting for a play that addresses such trauma with half of the cast playing talking goats. We hear June’s story of her scars, one of loss and fear, as it is woven through Alice’s own tale of familial grief. They talk to each other in a way that is raw and deep beyond the mere moments they have known each other, and still experience moments of awkwardness and small talk within the bargaining to be seen by the other. Munson and Acasio’s performances as June and Alice were unexpectedly real and surprisingly raw.

As disorienting as Zoom productions can be, “ALABASTER” was cohesive and impressive. The confines of the platform served the play, the connection of backdrops and props made the performers feel close and the audio components — sound and echos — made my environment closer to that of a theatre. I’m also a theatre artist who has shifted to Zoom productions in the past year, and I was so impressed with all “ALABASTER” achieved in this production. Its shifts in editing guided our attention. Its audio components allowed us access to the inner workings of the characters. Its text carried us through an intimate story of two women — and two goats — in a small Southern town, recovering from their grief.

In the second scene, the two women have a conversation about their respective mediums, where Alice tells June that, “art is meant to be shared.” SLAC, through streaming of all mediums, has made that happen through “ALABASTER.”

 

You can stream “ALABASTER” through May 30 on SLAC Digital. Tickets are $20 per household and give a 48-hour streaming window.

 

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