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Play review: Body Awareness: A relevant show for the times

Slam-dunk performances by all makes for a must-see play

By Cayla Vidmar

Body Awareness hit the Mallardi Theatre stage this weekend, and played artfully along the line of the serious and comedic, while examining a difficult topic—sexuality in the modern world. A standout performance by Barron Farnell and excellent acting by the rest of the cast made for a thought-provoking and entertaining Saturday night. Catch the play this weekend, October 12-13, and get special community appreciation pricing of $15 cash at the door.

Written by Annie Baker, Body Awareness explores the difficulties of sexuality in the midst of a changing political climate around physical self-expression—a relevant topic for the times at hand.

The story drops into Body Awareness week at Vermont College campus, where the event organizer Phyllis (played by Alissa Laney), and her partner Joyce (played by Brynn O’Connell) are hosting one of the guest artists in their home. Frank (played by Peter Viets), a photographer famous for his nude female portraits, incites tension between Phyllis and Joyce. The conflict is rounded out by Joyce’s adult son, Jared (played by Barron Farnell), who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome and is struggling to express himself physically.

Each actor seemed to represent a viewpoint in the discussion around sexuality and self-expression today. Frank’s flippant and casual attitude towards nudity and the female form (and his stature as a white-male behind the lens) are juxtaposed against Phyllis’s feminist ideals and aggressive expression in all that is wrong with the patriarchy. All the while, Joyce walks softly on the line of political correctness and embodies those of us confused by how we should be behaving as women and men in a world that changes its mind daily. Joyce’s softness is challenged by her son Jared, and his depiction of Asperger’s—the lack of empathy, and inability to connect and understand the emotions of those around him.

These characters and their views are weaved through with the comedic truths of relating with one another. You will see yourself and your relationships within the characters on stage and leave contemplating your views on your own self-expression.

Barron Farnell gave a standout performance, making us laugh out loud and cringe with his character’s struggles. Brynn O’Connell brought the rawness and vulnerability of her character to life, and Alissa Laney embodied the anger and tension felt by those trying to make sense of the tense political climate the country is in. Peter Viets brought a casual ease to the whole production, and let us all off the hook a little. Katie Thomas directed an excellent and fluid production, and her skill was obvious in the seamless way the show unfolded on stage.

Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of sexuality and self-expression, you will walk away with a sense of what those with opposing views are dealing with on the human quest for connection. Body Awareness teaches us that being a human is not black and white, and is often colored with contradiction, confusing emotions, and mistakes despite our best intentions. It’s a show well worth your Friday or Saturday night—so don’t miss it. Doors open at 7 p.m., tickets are available at CBMountainTheatre.org or, enjoy special community appreciation pricing with $15 cash tickets at the door.

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