‘Dirt’ at The Studio Theatre Theatre by David Friscic

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Dirt may be the main scenic component of The Studio Theatre’s World Premiere production of Dirt now playing at their Studio Lab, but Scenic Designer Debra Booth has supplied twinkling stars in the skies as well. There is hope amidst the contamination, messiness, and squalor in Bryony Lavery’s stimulating and cerebral play as characters interact in a universe that seems random and callous. The five characters on stage here are all interconnected in their need for human interaction and there is a poetic thrust to their angry tirades. This play is challenging fare for a specialized audience but the rewards are plentiful in this very professional, polished, and striking production.

Holly Twyford in ‘Dirt.’ Photo by Scott Suchman.

Under the very controlled direction of David Muse, this intriguing play takes us to many subjective worlds that the playwright discloses as these characters try to make sense of their existence. The messiness of human life is shown through the manipulation of one character by an unscrupulous technician and – especially – through a dating couple who cannot agree on almost anything until the primal pull of the sex act pulls them together. The onslaught of chemicals and creams contaminating people and the digestive tract’s bile and gas are portrayed as toxic and disturbing yet the hope of rebirth is always present in the healing power of the very dirt we walk on. Life seems to be a continual cycle of death and disintegration – yet growth and hope are always possible.

Muse’s direction is marked by an almost cinematic, fluid approach where scenes play out like fast-dissolves. The scenes play off each other like interrelated vignettes – each scene is presented with a pared-down clean and economical style. This directorial approach helps to give cohesiveness to the often unpleasant and disturbing subject matter. The Lighting by John Burkland lends an evocative touch to the proceedings and the Sound Design by Christopher Baine is appropriately mesmerizing.

(l to r) Holly Twyford and Natalia Payne in ‘Dirt.’ Photo by Scott Suchman.

Acted to the hilt by all the actors, this is very fine ensemble playing indeed. Holly Twyford is superb and subtle in her portrayal of the main character, Harper. Twyford moves so beautifully and naturally on stage and she reinforces her hold on DC metro audiences. Natalia Payne as the waitress Elle is a particular standout and has a very commanding physical presence and a nuanced vocal delivery. Carolyn Mignini as May, Matthew Montelongo as Matt and Ro Boddie as Guy are all uniformly excellent in their roles.

Once again, The Studio Theatre has a hit on its hands with Dirt. Do not miss this one!

Running Time: Two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Dirt plays through November 11, 2012, at Stage 4 at The Studio Theatre – 1501-14th Street, NW, in Washington, D.C. For tickets, call (202) 332-3300, or purchase them online.

 

 

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.