Theater J’s Strong Body Awareness

Fall season means children return to school, football starts in college and the NFL, and the theater season begins anew. This year’s off to a great start with Annie Baker’s comedy Body Awareness. Washington, DC theater goers saw her play,  Circle Mirror Transformation, at Studio Theater in the fall of 2010. Body Awareness was written a few years before Baker’s hit, Circle Mirror, but held my interest much more than the latter.

It’s Body Awareness Week at Shirley College, and the non-traditional Vermont family members Phyllis, Joyce and their possibly autistic son Jared are rocked by a visiting photographer and his ‘male gaze.’  I’d heard about the play through the Jewish Community Center’s Gay Lesbian group, GLOE. They liked that the play simply featured a lesbian couple without making it the center of the action. It’s true that the couple is respected and not made a central part of the story.

What makes the play so strong is that the dialogue is crisp and believable and the performances of all the actors are very natural. In addition, the play allows its characters to grow and for audience members to come to understand them and even like them.

The play raises questions regarding interpreting truth, when to use logic and when to go with instincts, and how to appreciate others who may be quite different from you. The jibes to PC are accurate but seemed a little too easy sometimes, as the US culture has begun to move away from the PC police era of the late 1980s and 1990s.

The playwright’s interview which appears in the program, noted that she wanted to complicate the things that we think of as “stupid.” One method was to have her least mature character call everything that he didn’t like “stupid,” illuminating that it takes a high degree of maturity to give credence to things that you either do not like or strongly disagree with. The Republicans are testing my patience this week.

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