After 15 years behind bars, Lorraine (Linda Reiter) is a free woman, and she immediately sets out to reunite with her former cellmate Marie (Aila Ayilam Peck). It’s just like old times, which comes as both a relief and a concern for the two formerly incarcerated women struggling to rejoin society after imprisonment. This Wide Night by Chloë Moss is the story of a female friendship that was forged by unavoidable intimacy. Locked safely within the dingy walls of Marie’s studio apartment, Interrobang’s Managing Artistic Director Georgette Verdin joins Shattered Globe Theatre and taps into the lifesaving bonds that make it possible to survive life’s hardships.
Aila Ayilam Peck and Linda Reiter carry the weight of this two-woman play with remarkable skill and instinctive teamwork. Peck’s heartbreaking performance as an abandoned woman with a history of substance abuse has the power to pull the audience’s attention – until Reiter comes barreling onstage to break the tension with a hilariously jolting exclamation. Over the course of the play, the distance that has grown between the two after Marie’s release steadily closes. What at first seems like an almost comical inconvenience transforms into a codependent and deeply intimate relationship. Peck and Reiter establish a tragically beautiful connection that transcends their generational divide. Whenever one of them is missing from the stage, the world feels a little wrong.
This Wide Night is a play defined by its performers that is unfortunately underserved by its static set. The entirety of the play is staged in a dark and cramped studio apartment, and the sparse slice-of-life set is flattened by confusing design choices. The one-color green backdrop is complicated by missing light shades, white patches, and a blue swivel chair in stark opposition to the lumpy brown pullout sofa. The sea of green washes out moments of dynamic staging. The saving grace of the set design by Sotirios Livaditis is the built-in proscenium that frames the stage to create a “widescreen” aspect ratio, establishing a window for the audience to peer into.
Director Georgette Verdin emphasizes hyper-realistic design elements to create a lived-in production. Set in a rainy 2009 United Kingdom, costumes by LaVisa Angela Williams and props by Rae Watson add welcome and detailed specificity to the set design. Well-integrated sound design by Christopher Kriz uses audio effects to create a fully realized world beyond the visual. Trey Brazeal’s dramatic lighting accentuates moments of theatricality in an otherwise realistic play.
The four magic words that almost every contemporary theatre-goer loves to hear: 90 minutes, no intermission. This Wide Night’s promise of a tight 90 minutes loosened with every scene change. The frequent blackouts, accompanied by a moody and repetitive score, drag down the play’s momentum. Compelling scene work and the undeniable chemistry between Peck and Reiter reignite the driving force, but the play struggles to make up the distance lost by the constant drops into darkness. The chronic pacing issue causes This Wide Night to trek steadily toward an impactful yet underwhelming climax.
This Wide Night runs at Theater Wit until November 13th.
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Aila Ayilam Peck, Marie
Linda Reiter, Lorraine
Chloë Moss, Playwright
Georgette Verdin, Director
Sotirios Livaditis, Scenic Design
LaVisa Angela Williams, Costume Design
Trey Brazeal, Lighting Design
Christopher Kriz, Original Music/ Sound Design
Rae Watson, Props Design
Gaby Labotka, Fight/ Intimacy Director
Elise Kauzlaric, Dialect Coach
Mason-Vivit Consulting Group, EDI consultants
Alexis Ward, Assistant Director/ Covid Compliance Officer
Richie Vavrina, Production Manager
Johnnie Schleyler, Technical Director
Nick Chamernik, Master Electrician
Tina M. Jach, Stage Manager
Becca Smith, Assistant Stage Manager
Photo by Michael Brosilow.