PROPRIOCEPTIONBy Marilyn Millstone
Director: Carol Rice
Stage Manager: Sara Jones
Dramaturgs: David Cockerell, Kathy Pingel
Costumes: Stacy Winsett
Set Designer: Erica Remi Lorca
Sound Designer: Robbi D. Holman
Props: Kristin M Burgess
Jason R. Davis - Mike Sheffield
Sue Doty-Goodner - Esther Abramson
Randy Ayers - Bennett Frohock
Jill Lightfoot - Kylie Jasper
Reviewed Performance: 9/9/2021
Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I’m guessing everyone contemplating attending this play will at some point, probably early on, Google the meaning of “proprioception”. That’s after they figure out how to say it. The playwright defined it as “how our bodies move through the world. The body’s ‘sixth sense’”. Appropriately enough, the play takes place, mostly, in a physical therapy facility where Holocaust survivor Esther Abramson is recovering from knee surgery and estranged from her only daughter. She is a patient of renowned African American physical therapist Mike Sheffield who is mentoring a new therapist, Randy Ayers. It’s an unusual setting for a play, but that just makes everything more interesting as the story unfolds. Into this smooth-running therapy room comes Kylie Jasper, a young ballerina who has a torn ACL and can’t dance for a while after just being named prima ballerina in her company. Sue Doty-Goodner is quite effective as the older woman. Her accent is very believable but at times she drops her voice at the end of sentences and it’s difficult to hear what she is saying. Her physical presence is also very believable and it’s easy to accept the pain she is enduring after her surgery in order to walk again.
Jason R. Davis, his bio tells us, is an elementary special education teacher and the energy he brings to the stage makes it easy to imagine him in that setting. He was a great pick for this role as his physical presence certainly convinces us of his personal attention to health and fitness. He commands the audience’s focus when he is on stage with his vocal strength and the energy he brings to the role. Davis is so engaging, it’s difficult to take your eyes from him when he is on stage. Sometimes his connection to the other characters fades and he seems to just be reading lines, but most of the time he is fully engaged with the others.
Randy Ayers as Bennett Frohock, his aide, is adorable. He is a perfect foil to the dominating Sheffield and carefully inserts humor along the way with his facial implications. His presence in the dream sequence where he appears as the male dancer who dropped Kylie and caused her injury is markedly distinct from his characterization of Bennet as is called for.
Last, but definitely not least, Jill Lightfoot is Kylie Jasper, the ballerina contemplating the end of her dance career. In her beginning appearance she is appropriately cold, distant, sarcastic, and self-involved. Her development of the metamorphosis of Kylie as the story progresses is captivating as her friendship with Esther escalates.
Ms. Rice assembled a wonderful cast for this premier production which was to have taken place in the spring of 2020. We all know what happened there. Everyone had to wait...and wait...and hope the pandemic would eventually ease up enough to allow the show to go on. And finally, it has, though one cast member had to be replaced due to other commitments as the date of the premier was delayed a year and a half! Rover also moved the run-on Proprioception from their usual site on Parker Road in Plano to the Cox Theatre in downtown Plano. They are in a great “black box” setting with the audience on three sides. The stage presented the cast and director with some challenges in staging and there were times when at crucial points, e.g., the dinner table scene, when one actor had her back to me and completely blocked the actor across the table from her from my sight. That left only two cast members whose faces I could at least see in profile.
The program face for this show displays the comment: “A play about the delicate dance of living.” Proprioception, the word, encompasses three aspects, known as the “ABC of proprioception”. These are: agility, balance, and coordination. The word focuses on physical movement and innate awareness of that movement. From that definition I have to make a bit of a leap to the characters and theme of the play itself. The physical rehab aspect of the setting is tangential. The play seems to focus on the emotional movement of the characters as they progress and change through the story. This, I believe, is apparent in the characterizations each of these actors brings to the stage. While I understand the title of the play and all it conjures, the link to the theme of the play seems a bit tenuous.
I congratulate this cast on their obvious hard work and dedication to the premier of this play. I also congratulate them on their patience. A year and a half between casting and premier is mind boggling. However, it was worth the wait. Rover Dramawerks is also due a high five for applying to be a producing theatre for the AACT New PlayFest initiative and congratulations on their selection for the full production and premier of Marilyn Millstone’s PROPRIOCEPTION.
2901 W. Parker Road #866901
Plano, Texas 75086
Through September 18, 2021
Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Thursday and Saturday matinee:
Adult tickets $18
Seniors and Students $15
Friday and Saturday evening:
Adult tickets $24
Seniors and Students $20
For information go to www.roverdramawerks.com Or call 972-849-0358 for information