Review: ‘This Little Light’ at Venus Theatre

This Little Light by Jennifer Faletto opened this week at Venus Theatre. Deborah Randall is the director of this remarkable play. In her director’s notes, Randall calls This Little Light a comedy. Although there are undoubtedly lighter comedic moments, there is a lot of angst and conflict, both outward and inward, in this drama. The play, however, is thought-provoking and, yet quite enjoyable, even if at times you may not be sure exactly what is happening or what the playwright is trying to express. It is a play where after the show, you try to figure things out, each person coming up with their own impressions based on their own life history.

Katie Hileman as Modern Day Sadie in This Little Light. Photo by Mike Landsman.
Katie Hileman as Modern Day Sadie in This Little Light. Photo by Mike Landsman.

The opening, Part 1, starts on a camping trip where we meet Modern Day Sadie, Katie Hileman. Out from a tent, the only piece of scenery on this minimalist set, comes a series of other Sadies from the past and present. Old West Sadie is an outlaw from 1915 and is played by Randall. Then, the plot jumps back to 1815, and we met Samuel or Shipwrecked Sadie, a historic transgender person being held by a pirate. This Sadie is played by Christina Day. Finally, there is Extra-Solar Sadie, Kyo Sin Kang, in the year 2115 after the apocalypse, existing alone on another planet where life is invisible – and only able to communicate with Sadie through tweets and blinks.

This part of the drama is a series of monologues. The actors do a wonderful job of keeping the audience involved and making us care about their characters, who appear to have gone through a series of reincarnations.

Part 2 takes place in the present at Macy’s, where Modern Day Sadie is employed. There she works for Sharee (Kang), who manages the department and is more concerned with her mannequins than with Victor (played by Day), who is in love with her, or with the lives of the other employees. Beside Sadie, the employees include Marie (Randall), an older woman who was a successful contractor until her personal life fell apart. Sharee seems barely aware that her own life is about to turn upside down as Macy’s, the iconic department store, faces the new age of buying online and the death of the shopping mall. In this part of the play, the performers interact with each other in a more traditional style.

Finally, in Part 3 we jump to another dimension. In this section, all the characters from Part 1 come together and interact with each other. Are they just part of Modern Day Sadie’s imagination, are they spiritual manifestations of reincarnated Sadies? This is left to each audience member to decide.

Kyo Sin Kang as Sharee in This Little Light. Photo by Mike Landsman.
Kyo Sin Kang as Sharee in This Little Light. Photo by Mike Landsman.

The four women thespians sparkle in their roles. Hileman makes a great millennial, self-absorbed and trying to find her niche in life. She is the thread that holds the plot together, and she is great at helping sew this unusual patchwork. Randall captures the toughness of Old West Sadie and the complexity of Marie, smoothly making the transitions. Day is right on the money as Shipwrecked Sadie. We never doubt her character’s insight into her sexuality as she realizes she now has a chance to become Sadie, the woman she always knew she was. Day’s lightest moments come as Victor as he relates his first meeting with Sharee at a local restaurant. Kang’s detailed Sharee is very interesting. We all know people like this. They go through the life seemingly untouched by what is happening around them. This is reflected in the detailed attention Kang gives to her mannequins. At times they seem to have more personality than their poser. That is due to Kang’s superior performance. Kang also makes us ponder about humanity’s role in the universe as Extra Solar Sadie. I really loved that futuristic costume, thanks to Randall who did costumes and props.

Randall, who is also the Founder of Venus Theatre, does a superb job directing. Her performers create interesting pictorial moments, and she seems to find a blueprint for this very strange path Faletto has paved. The play runs without an intermission and kudos to Randall for keeping us from looking at our watches and absorbed in the plot.

The minimalist set was created by Amy Rhodes, who in the Venus Theatre’s tradition, uses creative ways to deal with a small stage and theater in a very basic round. The lighting by Rhodes also captures the feeling of the very disparate locals whether it is the woods, the desert, a Barbary island, a galaxy far-far away or Macy’s.

Watching this play is like listening to some of the Beatles’ music, where the tempos and beats suddenly change but the song still flows so melodically. The playwright, director, and actors create a beautiful quilt with their little pieces of existence.

The play runs just under two hours. Some people may have wanted an intermission, but I felt that not having one kept the cohesiveness of the plot.

Venus Theatre continues to do fine women’s theatrical productions. Celebrate Women’s History Month by going to see this fine production. You do not have to be female to be moved and entertained by This Little Light.

Running Time: One hour and 55 minutes, with no intermission.

This Little Light plays through March 25, 2018, at Venus Theatre Company – 21 C Street, in Laurel, MD. For more information about Venus Theatre Company, including a calendar of their upcoming shows, or to purchase tickets, go online.