A young woman journeys from sleazy to the sublime at Venus
By By David Sturm
Nov 17, 2017 at 10:00 AM
A young woman, battered (literally) by life’s outrageous fortune, finds redemption and healing in a poem that lifts her heart as the wind lifts the wings of a bird.
Does it matter that she finds this solace while doing bumps and grinds as a pole dancer in Sydney, Australia?
In “The Ravens,” the new play at Laurel’s Venus Theatre, it matters not. The play dares the audience to find the emotional link between Shakespeare’s 1601 poem “The Phoenix and the Turtle” and the travails of a tough cookie trying to hold on to a shred of personal dignity in a brutal environment.
Venus is hosting the stage premiere of “The Ravens,” an award-winning radio drama by Australia’s Alana Valentine, who also wrote the play “Soft Revolution” that was performed at Venus.
Front and center in “The Ravens” is Kira (Suzanne Edgar), who ekes out a living on stage in a dive called the Honey Spot. Cowering by habit in her black leather mini skirt and knee-high red boots, Kira may be in a semi-traumatized state, but her hackles rise when called a prostitute. “I’m a sex worker,” she insists.
Kira’s fortunes, however, are looking up. She’s just come into some money after receiving a crime victim’s compensation payout. Maybe this is her ticket out of “the life.”
The first obstacle to overcome is Marg (Alison Talvacchio), Kira’s roommate, who delivers a vicious beat down to Kira when the audience first encounters her. All swagger and snark in a studded leather jacket, Marg sees Kira’s windfall as a payday for herself.
“You’re nothing because you’re scum,” Marg sneers at Kira.
Then, Kira happens across Nina (Erin Hanratty), an aspiring social worker with an ache to make the world a better place. When she hears Kira’s story, she wants to take matters in hand and shepherd Kira into a better life.
Kira takes Nina to the strip club and demonstrates some of her pole moves. “You have to be really fit,” Kira says with pride. Nina’s appalled, not impressed.
Sharing Kira’s street smarts is another veteran of the pole-dancing circuit, Nancy (Ashley Zielinski). As a strip-teasing duo, they once had a routine for a client that incorporated the Shakespearean poem.
Could the routine work again on stage at the Honey Spot? Kira’s windfall might make it happen.
The play has a bird lore element throughout and includes a pair of creepy ravens that seem to emerge in Kira’s dreams.
During a visit to a nursing home, a woman sizes up Kira as someone who has taken one too many punches from a bully, but still comes back for more.
“You’re still seeking chaos,” she tells Kira.
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