‘Morning, Miranda’ at Doorway Arts Ensemble

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When life’s daily routine is interrupted by the death of an estranged parent or relative, it’s like being forced to acknowledge the scattered pieces of an abandoned puzzle. Tucked away letters from past lovers provide clues to the identity of the person who became buried under the veneer of “Mom” or “Dad.” Connections are forged between people who are brought together solely through common bond of love or duty to the deceased. Mysteries are revealed.

K. Clare Johnson and Sarah Holt. Photo courtesy of Doorway Arts Ensemble.
K. Clare Johnson and Sarah Holt. Photo courtesy of Doorway Arts Ensemble.

Local playwright Stephen Spotswood’s Morning, Miranda weaves a magical tale of Miranda (K. Clare Johnson), a young woman who finds herself charged with driving her mother’s cremains across the country to San Francisco. Piecing together the memories becomes a bit more interesting when the ghost of her mother Helen (Sarah Holt) materializes and comes along for the ride.

Johnson and Holt anchor the heart of the production as the daughter and mother who only begin to know and understand each other in this post mortem relationship. Both actors give natural, unforced performances and discover a tender chemistry between them that rings with honesty. David Dubov also brings warmth and levity to the story as “Aunt Jack,” a drag queen friend of the family who proves more key to solving the puzzle than he seems at first.

Director Matt Ripa keeps the tone consistently light, which somehow makes the emotional climax all the more powerful and striking. Spotswood’s script unfolds with increasingly playful supernatural elements, and the versatile ensemble of actors deliver lively and entertaining supporting performances (including a frantic country line dance choreographed by Jennie Lutz). Ally Jenkins and Adam R. Adkins are standouts with multiple comedic characters, and Jon Jon Johnson steals the show in a scene of “possession.”

Set and Lighting Designer Chris Holland carries through the puzzle imagery in his fractured road map design, and ably creates the vast number of required settings, and Mehdi Raoufi’s sound design elevates intimate scenes with a cinematic quality. Jesse Shipley’s simple and smart costume design helps to differentiate the many characters doubled by the ensemble, and creates contrasting many worlds ranging from “Jackie O’Nasty’s” drag show to an underwater netherworld circus.

In the end, all of the pieces of Miranda’s puzzle come together in an emotional crescendo that Spotswood and Ripa orchestrate like a fine symphony. Doorway Arts Ensemble is going beyond a mission of bringing the work of local playwrights into the light of day – they are making that work shine.

Running Time: Approximately two hours with one intermission.

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Morning, Miranda plays through April 12, 2014 at The Writer’s Center— 4508 Walsh Street, in Bethesda, MD. Purchase tickets online.

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Use code HOTSTUFF to purchase half-priced tickets here.

1 COMMENT

  1. Saw *Morning, Miranda* its opening weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Making lively use of the very modest accommodations at the Writers’ Center in Bethesda, Ripa and a talented, agile cast bring color, sincerity and a surprising amount of spectacle to the playwright’s language, which slips easily from natural, slangy almost sitcom-y repartee into elevated, lyrical passages.

    The effect is to bring the various worlds we live it – some consciously, others less so – into close contact with each other. That’s an ambitious agenda for a play, but the production pull it off nicely.

    We were thinking afterward that with the metered parking across the street (free on weekends, I think) and the two-block walk from Metro, plus the dizzying glut of restaurants from Moby Dick Kabobs to the chi-chi spots on Bethesda Row, about three blocks away, this is a fine night out and a fine night of original, local theatre.

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