Christopher Durang’s outrageous Miss Witherspoon opened last night at Silver Spring Stage. The show is directed by Kevin O’Connell and produced by Devon Seybert. Durang’s black comedy is a perfect meld with the type of quirky, but thoughtful, plays SSS is most adept at presenting.
The focus of the play is an unhappy woman, Veronica, who commits suicide and winds up in Bardo, a Hindu limbo, awaiting reincarnation. She not only is reincarnated once but several times. We watch Miss Witherspoon (as she is called in Bardo) transform not only to other lives but dramatically different lives The play itself is both a philosophical look at life and death, and also a study of the motives for and against suicide. It is a play that will ask you to reflect about yourself, as well as mankind. However, you do it laughing the whole time.
O’Connell captures all the nuances of this provocative comedy, and combines all the technical aspects flawlessly with wonderful performances. The play never loses pace, while we wait to see what is going to happen next.
Nancy Blum plays Veronica/Miss Witherspoon, and is in every scene. She seamlessly makes the transformations to infant, child, teen, and pet from the dowdy lady who is just tired of life. Blum captures all the humor of the role without ever looking silly. She expertly uses her monologues, which are scattered throughout the play, as a way to expose the soul of the character to the audience.
The other cast members are also up to Blum’s excellence. Taylor Bono plays Mother 1 and Mother 2, who changes from uptight new mom to heroin shooting abusive mom, and manages to keep both relevant and believable.
David Dieudonné plays The Men from Gandalf to an abusive uncaring father with aplomb. His portrayals are always convincing and well-performed.
Juliana Ejedoghaobi is the caring Teacher who helps her abused student, and is also totally credible as the Lady in the Hat who meets with Miss Witherspoon in limbo, and is one of the most famous spiritual figures of history. She conveys the caring of the first character and is very edgy and funny in the latter.
Pooja Chawla plays Maryamma (a Hindu version of St. Peter) with just the right amount of intellectuality and spiritualism. Her conflicts and verbal sparring with Veronica are the essence of the show.
Maggie Modig provides the set design and set decoration. She creates our Hindu limbo as well as some very interesting props that are really characters. She uses platforms on this small stage to create many levels for the action. I do not want to give away too much – but parts of the sets are not what you think!
Devon Seybert had a demanding job as costumer and lives up to the task. Kudos to her and the actors who make some very quick wardrobe changes.
Lights designed by Bill Strein and Sound designed by Rich Frangiamore transport us to Bando and back in an unnerving, but somehow laughable, way without being overwhelming – an excellent blend.
Also a nod to Pam Burks, who as Stage Manager keeps the sound cues, light cues, set changes, and wardrobe changes smooth.
Definitely see Silver Spring Stage’s entertaining Witherspoon. You might find yourself returning for a second viewing.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.