Much like in Misterman, The New Electric Ballroom features characters that are trapped in the past. More specifically, in one pivotal day in the past. Sisters Clara and Breda, in their 60s, reenact a traumatic experience they had when they were teenagers, relating all of this to their younger sister Ada, who encourages them to keep telling the story even when it's almost too painful to continue. They put on make-up and the clothes they were wearing that day as they go through the story for what seems like the thousandth time, a story that involves a long bike ride, a handsome singer, a town dance, and an event so traumatic that Clara and Breda have not left the house since. It's difficult to understand Ada's place in the story, the one sister that leaves the house to go out in the world, and why she forces them to do this repeatedly. On this one particular day, they invite the fishmonger Patsy, their one contact with the outside world, to play a part in their story. Patsy has his own issues, and a surprising connection to the story. There's a glimmer of hope for a way out of this endless cycle, but it's quickly squashed, and the sisters' sad life continues as before.
|sisters Breda (Melissa Hart), Ada (Virginia Burke), and
Clara (Katherine Ferrand) contemplate eating the cake
as Patsy (Patrick Bailey) looks on (photo by Tony Nelson)
This is the second play I've seen at the New Century Theatre where the stage has been built out, and I've come to see that it's a must for most plays. Even though a few rows of seating are lost, the usual wide and shallow stage often just doesn't work. In this case, Andrea Heilman has designed a shabby but neat little home on the square stage, with vintage kitchen appliances and tape players.
The New Electric Ballroom continues for only two more weekends, so get there soon if you like complex, layered, disturbing, engrossing, tragic, beautifully performed theater.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.