KPBS AIRDATE: May 07, 2004
San Diego seems to have become a spawning ground for knockout solo performances. Two years ago, at the La Jolla Playhouse, the first Page to Stage work-in-progress featured the glorious star-turn of Jefferson Mays in this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winner, “I Am My Own Wife.” He’s sure to be nominated next week for a Tony Award in his Broadway debut. Also at the Playhouse, Billy Crystal just completed a run of his still-evolving memoir, “700 Sundays: A Life in Progress.” It was a magnificent mix of the uproarious and the emotional, a laugh-cry fest that should go far. Earlier this year, we watched in side-splitting awe as David McBean hilariously portrayed 40 New York eccentrics in “Fully Committed,” which is currently making a brief return visit to Cygnet Theatre and should NOT be missed. And now, along comes local favorite Rosina Reynolds, giving a stunning, virtuoso performance as “Shirley Valentine.”
A middle-aged, working-class Liverpudlian, Shirley has an empty nest and a demanding, taciturn husband. She’s taken to talking to the wall, to whom she confides that she’s lost her sense of adventure and her sense of self. She’s no longer the rebel she was in high school; she’s frumpy, tired, bored and ignored. She’s not a feminist, and not part of the generation she calls “the clitoris kids.” “I’ve lived such a little life,” she laments. “Who turned me into this?” And then, her friend hands her a companion ticket to Greece. It’s a hard decision. She’s rooted in her humdrum life, expected to have her husband’s dinner on the table at precisely the same time every night. “We never do what we want to do,” she convinces herself. “We do what we have to do.” And yet, Shirley, a kind of disillusioned Everywoman, comes to realize that this is something she has to do. She takes the plunge… right into the Mediterranean. In the second act, she’s a new woman. She’s “starting to grow again.” She’s “fallen in love with the idea of livin’.”
When I first saw Willy Russell’s 1989 play a dozen years ago, I wasn’t ready for it. Whether or not you have regrets, you have to be at a certain stage of your life to understand where this gentle, sentimental play is coming from. The wonderfully compelling, heartful Rosina Reynolds welcomes us into Shirley’s life and forces us to look at our own. It’s a sensational performance, that includes a variety of characters and accents. Under George Flint’s sensitive direction, the piece moves at a perfect pace, alternately snappy and funny, thoughtful, wistful, even tearful. If you know what I’m talking about, you have to see this play. If you don’t, wait a few years; you’ll get there.
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.