OCCUPANTby Edward Albee
Directed by Susan Sargeant
Scenic Design: Nick Brethauer
Lighting Design: Jason Foster
Costume Design: Barbara C. Cox
Sound Design/Photography/Images: Lowell Sargeant
Stage Manager: Bobby Selah
Constance Gold Parry as Louise Nevelson
David Benn as The Man
Reviewed Performance: 10/7/2017
Reviewed by Darlene Singleton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The play takes the form of an interview, with an unnamed questioner referred to as The Man, played by David Benn, questioning Louise Nevelson, played by Constance Gold Parry, about her public accomplishments and private emotional conflicts - after she is dead.
Constance Gold Parry is absolutely superb as the ghost of Louise Nevelson. I found her to be mesmerizing throughout the entire performance. At one point during her performance I felt as if time stood still for an instant and I realized I was holding my breath as Parry gloriously portrayed Nevelson’s discovery of gold on gold fabric, and with special lighting design by Jason Foster, the entire scene was wonderfully spellbinding.
David Benn, as The Man, was most entertaining to watch onstage as he subtly moved from being amused to skeptical - leading Nevelson through a chronological review of her life - starting with her birth in Russia and immigration to the United States, her turbulent marriage to Charles Nevelson, her poor parenting of their son Mike, her alleged affairs, her travels abroad, her sculptures, and, finally, her demise.
My guest and I were entertained throughout the production as the vignettes recount her life via a contentious question-and-answer session. The Man is obviously a fan of Louise’s life and, at times, knows more about her than she does. The title of the play comes from a story about Nevelson's final days as a lung cancer patient. She had her big as life, all capitalized name on her hospital room door replaced with a lower cased "occupant" - as she amusingly explained to her interviewer "there's no privacy anywhere."
Direction by Susan Sargeant was spot on. Costumes by Barbara C. Cox had Parry dressed true to Louise Nevelson fashion – complete with two pairs of sable eyelashes, bright red bandanna headgear, and a colorful Bohemian-like kimono. The set design by Nick Brethauer was subtle, but perfect, and in true Nevelson form, included several pieces of abstract-expressionistic boxes made of ‘discarded wood’. Sound design by Lowell Sargeant set the mood perfectly both during pre-show and intermission.
There is a small green space in Lower Manhattan that lies as a triangular intersection between Liberty Street, William Street, and Maiden Lane – it was the first public plaza in New York City to be named after an artist – it is called Louise Nevelson Plaza. Next time I am in NYC I plan to visit.
I love leaving a theater with the characters swirling in my mind and wanting to know more. The production runs until October 21st and I highly recommend everybody seeing this most entertaining and very interesting story.
WingSpan Theatre Company
The Bath House Cultural Center, 521 East Lawther Drive · Dallas, TX 75218