Sunday, April 5, 2015

Virgin by Alyson Renaldo

Alyson Renaldo - Photo:  Kristin Lau

By Joe Straw

The Santa Monica Playhouse is celebrating its 50th anniversary!  Wow!  Presently, the theatre is an intimate house for eclectic one-person shows: Stogie Kenyatta’s “The World is My Home – The Life of Paul Robeson”, “Jamaica, Farewell” by Debra Ehrhardt, “A Child Left Behind” by Alan Aymie; all great nights of entertainment which have been reviewed on this blog.

Lately, there’s been a charming Caribbean crowd at the Santa Monica Playhouse.  The lovely woman to my immediate right was from the West Indies.  She yelled “Panama” to a woman in a black hat sitting near us. “Panama! (blowing three air kisses), catch you later and we talk about tings, and tings, and tings.”

Alyson Renaldo, the actor/writer of Guyanese parentage, came onstage and disrobed.  Well, she took off her shoes.  I’ve seen this before.  Now she is going to rub her tired feet, I said to myself.

But, that didn’t happen.  Instead she put on her “flip-flops” and walked over and read a couple of handwritten messages. At that moment, I could see a truth, a very simple truth, honest and forthright. 

“What are you doing here?” – Renaldo

Renaldo is a stunning statuesque woman, with beautiful teeth and a warm smile.  How she got to be thirty years old and a virgin is her emotional dialogue, her inner conflict, and the thrust of her entire emotional being that she delivers in an intimate theatrical setting.  All this makes for a delightful evening as well as funny in a most unusual way.   

The journey begins when Renaldo says she has RSVP’d to a wedding reception.

“An RSVP is an iron clad contract.” – Reynaldo

And in order for us to get the now, we must go back to the beginning and understand how this attractive, unattached, “Virginator”, and “Virgin-esque”, woman gets to the ball (no pun intended). 

In her case, consummation was an unlearned developmental skill, but by happenstance, Reynaldo was interrupted so many times in her youth, she was questioning if it was ever going to happen at all.   Forget coitus interruptus, Renaldo is a woman skilled in the art of interrupted outercourse.

What is outercourse?  Well, everything that is not intercourse, and Renaldo will take you on that journey, to that special place, where she discusses her virginity with the characters that hold a special place in her heart.  

TDN Theatre presents Virgin written and performed by Alyson Renaldo and directed by Chris DeCarlo and Alyson Renaldo at the Santa Monica Playhouse through Sunday April 19th, 2015.

“And he shall take her wife in her virginity.” – Levitucus 21:15

The journey for Renaldo starts when she’s young and kept in a state of chastity as the result of her religion, her mother, and the amusing insanity that trolls upon her synapses.

The characters in her life are specific, especially her mother, who tells her that having underage sex is like driving a Jaguar without a license.  Good idea when one thinks about it. But Renaldo uses the sage advice as a license to get her car moving on the journey to the glamorous life of youthful sex-capades and ravenous interests.

And now near the end, and at the wedding reception with Reggae music in the background, Renaldo says you don’t have to have a partner, you just dance, and eventually somebody will hop up along side of you and grind into you without asking.  (This truth played out much to the delight of the audience on this night.)

But in the end, Renaldo, the writer and actor, sends us out into the cold night air with a resounding genuineness about virginity and what that word means.  The ending strikes to the heart and gives us one more story that restores our faith in humanity.  In short, the writer takes us on an very intelligent journey and throws in a grand, funny, and physical life to boot.   

Chris DeCarlo, the co-director, finds the moments, keeps it all honest, and gives us a night of enjoyable theatre.

James Cooper is the Lighting Designer, George J. Vennes III is the Production Stage Manager and Sandra Zeitzew is the Public Relations Director.

Run!  Run!  And take someone who likes to whisper sweet little nothings in your ears. 

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