Review: 'peerless' at Barrington Stage Company
- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Jiehae Park’s exceptionally well written play peerless offers a unique look into the college application and acceptance process that affects so many people every year. In the play we meet Asian-American twin sisters who’ve devised a plan to ensure they both make it into “the college”. It starts with them attending a new high school where they will enroll in different grades so as to not compete with each other for the coveted college spot. “M”, played by Sasha Diamond, would apply and start college first, while “L”, played by Laura Sohn, would apply the following year. Their plan seems flawless, until they find out that someone else was accepted instead of M. It is there they devise a new plan to do whatever it takes to make sure M gets that spot. As the play progresses we see that they are willing and capable of doing anything to make their plan succeed.
In the intimate theatre space, which was easily consumed by darkness (aiding the mood of the play), the audience sat intrigued by Dirty Girl, Adina Verson, who appeared with dreadlocks and grungy looking clothes to begin the show. The obvious outsider of the school where the twins hoped to carry out their plans, she appeared and disappeared throughout the show offering disturbing insight into the twins’ future. When the twins first appear, they stand in front of their lockers spouting off about their plan. The quickness of their speech further captivated the audience. For the remainder of show we were hooked on the story described to us as “a comedy until it isn’t”.
Laura Sohn and Sasha Diamond as the twin sisters L and M were fantastic. Their dialogue was unbelievably fast, but their diction was flawless and every word was clearly understood. They fully embraced their roles, diving head first into the complexity of these characters, their logic and their interpretation of reality. The actors’ connection to each other, ability to finish each other’s sentences and to seemingly have the same thought process was uncanny and made believing them to be twins very easy. Their extensive fight scene late in the play was supremely choreographed by Ryan Winkles. Adina Verson, as previously mentioned, portrayed Dirty Girl for the majority of the show and then in the final scene portrayed Preppy Girl. She was fascinating to watch because we never knew what she was going to do or say. Ronald Alexander Peet played “BF”, an African-American boy who unknowingly posed a threat to the twins’ perfect plan. Ethan Dubin was terrific in his portrayal of fellow classmates “D” and then later as “D’s Brother”. This excellent five person cast was directed by Louisa Proske who helped them find the many characteristics, vocal, physical and emotional dynamics of each character and portray them with passion, honesty and a bit of humor.
The scenic design by John McDermott is remarkable and includes panels painted various colors that are hung on tracks and moved across the stage to create the various scenes and spaces during the play. The lighting design by Oliver Wason and sound design by Jeremy S. Bloom further transfixed the audience into the world of the play. These three elements worked perfectly together to match the fractured nature of the play and staging from director Louisa Proske.
This show is unlike anything I have ever seen and is worth a drive that is longer than the show itself. It is insanely brilliant while totally twisted at the same time and in the best possible way. I loved the descent into madness and how it played homage to Shakespeare’s tragedy of Macbeth. This play truly is a comedy, until it isn’t and is not to be missed.
This phenomenal production of peerless runs about 90 minutes with no intermission and plays on the St. Germain Stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center until August 6th. For tickets call the box office at 413-236-8888 or visit www.barringtonstageco.org
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