Theatrical Outfit is producing Tanya Barfield’s play “Bright Half Life,” directed by Melissa Foulger, running through Feb. 27.
Park Krausen and Candy McKellan portray two women whom we follow through a relationship that lasts just over four decades; yet the play takes only about 90 minutes to perform. That’s a pretty deft trick to pull off for the playwright, but she manages quite well.
“Bright Half Life” had a one month run Off-Broadway in 2015 by the Women’s Project Theatre; that would not augur well for most theaters, but the Outfit has proceeded boldly forward. The show was a LAMBDA Literary Award Winner, which honors LGBTQ works.
The playwright seems fascinated by the subject of time; you may know that half life is a term used in nuclear physics to describe how quickly unstable atoms undergo radioactive decay, or how long stable atoms survive.
Tennessee Williams shared this fascination: He wrote an essay called “The Timeless World of a Play,” in which he deals with the “arrest of time” which takes place in a completed work of art and “gives to certain plays their feeling of depth and significance.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Barfield has read it.
At any rate, the women in this two character play take us on a kaleidoscopic journey through their four decade romance. But like Peter Pan, neither ages. They can’t, for neither woman leaves the stage for the entire performance!
Both Erica (Ms. Krausen) and Vicky (Ms. McKellan) unashamedly reveal their quirks and peccadillos, and it is the warmth and charm of the actors themselves that will win you over. At one point Erica says something like “My father’s dying. Will you marry me?” In another scene she again asks, “Okay, so I think we should get married, right?”
You see, in the “half life” world of this play, some scenes are repeated, maybe changed slightly. Do you ever wish you could repeat scenes in your own life? The playwright allows that here.
I’m not going to reveal all the vignettes here, but I will say that we are presented with two very intelligent and lively human beings, both of whom have a lot of joie de vivre.
There are occasions when their conversations overlap a bit and some words are lost; but I expect such lapses have been smoothed out by now. Ms. Krausen has been seen on most of the major stages in Atlanta; you may remember her work at Théâtre du Reve which produces plays in French. If you haven’t seen Ms. McKellan as much, I expect you soon will.
By the way, the setting is on a multi-leveled spot in the middle of the universe, with a shimmering moon and stars in the background. For that we must thank scenic designer Ming Chen and lighting designer Rob Dillard.
If “Bright Half Life” is to enchant you, you must bring a large portion of the willing suspension of disbelief. The play itself is not really dramatically compelling; as mentioned, it’s the charm of the performers you will take with you.
For tickets and information, visit theatricaloutfit.org.