In my blog posts, I typically write a short plot summary first, followed by details of the performance and design. For this piece, it's impossible to separate the two. In a fine example of content dictates form, the way this story is told is as fascinating, disturbing, and layered as the story itself. There are really three characters here: self-help guru and social media star Elizabeth (Emily Michaels King), nurse Alma (Debra Berger) who takes care of her after she suffers a mental breakdown of sorts, and a camera (operated by co-creator Amber Johnson of DangerVision Productions). The way that the camera follows them (with video projected live in black and white on a giant screen under the arch of the gorgeous Southern Theater) says as much about these two women as they do. It's quite beautiful to watch the live performances along with the close-up film shots at the same time, and the way they relate to each other.
|photo by Dan Norman|
The movie is from 1966, but this adaptation feels so 2018. Elizabeth paints this picture of herself on social media that is not who she is, until the mask cracks and she can no longer keep it up. Alma is a fan of Elizabeth, and can't believe she gets to work with this perfect woman she so admires. They become close as Alma cares for Elizabeth on a beach retreat, Elizabeth not speaking, Alma spilling all of her deepest thoughts. The line between the two blurs, and Alma is devastated when she thinks Elizabeth is using her.
The piece speaks to the image that we choose to present to the world, or feel compelled to present to the world, especially as women. We have to have perfect kids, perfect relationships, perfect work, and be pretty too. At times it's enough to send anyone to a place of silence and shutting down.
Do yourself a favor and go see Animus at the Southern Theater. It's truly one of the most uniquely beautiful and chillingly disturbing pieces of art that I've seen. Six performances remain, tonight through Saturday. Tickets are just $24 or less, with two "pay what you can" nights. Click here for times and to purchase tickets.