Bonnets from IU’s Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance is by far the most complex attempt to bring a multi character, multi-location piece to the ‘zoom’ stage. Jamie Anderson returns to grad school at IU as an MFA director. At first, she thought this was going to be a staged work the department elected to go with ‘zoom.’
Bonnets is a commission for the Big 10 Consortium of plays by and about women. In Jen Silverman’s piece, a group of women in bonnets murder people in a variety of ways. They confront the legacy of patriarchal power in poisonous France and in witch-crazed Salem in 1600. There’s also scenes of the cycle of violence in England in 1800. Bonnets subverts the historic illustrations of well-behaved women. Up close and personal on my small computer’s screen, It’s unsettling, dark, and frightening.
All summer, director Anderson wrestled with what she calls this “beast of a play.” ‘Zoom’ offers many options and lots of restrictions for a production. The show opens with an original poem by Adrienne Embry. She plays God. God is a frequent supplier of sound effects--coconuts for a carriage ride in France, a wind chime for a kitchen scene in England--and lots of connecting commentary throughout.
In France, Valerie (Casey Kwon) and Claire (Caroline Somes) are riding in that carriage talking about marital difficulties. It seems that the confident Valerie’s solution is poisoning her lovers as she tires of them. The hesitant Claire is unhappy with her husband and yet not quite willing to pursue that solution.
In 1800 England we meet Webster (Kaila Day), the overworked maid of Mrs. Wolcott (Isabelle Garde). Mrs. Wolcott is the mother of Georgette (Triana Williams). Georgette is often reminded by her mother that her father was a weak man. Mrs. Wolcott suffers from a cycle of violence and she’s passing it on. If Bonnets has a villain, it’s probably her.
In Salem in 1600--my, it’s easy when you’re traveling by ‘zoom’ in Bonnets--a pair of Quaker girls, Prudence (Lexi Silva) and Fortitude (Peter Ruiz) appear to the accompaniment of pseudo-period music. There’s a brief scene of Mistress Stone (the charming Caroline Santiago Turner) on her way to the witch’s gallows.
Director Anderson has introduced us to most of the cast and she’s not quite finished. In France, Claire has gotten up the courage to invite Laurent (Hannah Zeldin) for a hesitant assignation. Claire is always hesitant and though Laurent is patiently, charmingly, smilingly willing, it almost doesn’t happen.
Meanwhile, back in Salem, Webster is sweeping while Mrs. Wolcott asks her to do one too many tasks. Webster, beside herself, dispatches her mistress with the broom handle. Daughter Georgette appears and Webster, covered with blood, tells Georgette about serving people having a lot of blood. It’s a quiet scene as the two look upon the mother’s body.
Still in Salem, we learn that Prudence, to ensnare Mistress Stone’s husband Daniel (Catherine Baker), has spread the rumors that condemn his wife, Mistress Stone. If Bonnets has a second villain, a wolf among sheep, it’s Daniel. Now that the wife is condemned, he’s ready to leave Prudence and depart for Boston. His departure is interrupted as Prudence stabs him.
I’ve been pretty detailed about the scenes in Bonnets because one of the advantages of not being in the theatre among others is that I can make notes. The show has a lot more characters and locations than I’ve been dealing with in prior ‘zoom’ productions and keeping the plot lines separate has been part of the fun of live theatre.
Bonnets is ‘zooming’ from the IU department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance. Its directed by MFA candidate Jamie Anderson with Grace Leckey as the music director and sound designer. Bonnets plays on at 7:30 through Saturday the 31st. ‘Zoom’ seating is generous and the department is accommodating.
I’m George Walker.