By Bill Oser, Theatre Critic Saturday, June 20, 2015
Urbanite Theatre is presenting Reborning by Zayd Dohrn as the second production in their maiden season. Unbanite's mission is to present more modern, edgier work and this play seems to fit that vision. Kelly is an artist making doll replicas of children who have been lost. The creep factor begins from the moment the audience walks into the performance space, as we see many doll heads in various states of completion, head forms, and other body parts. The eeriness is ramped up as we see in detail what Kelly is working on. The play deals with how people handle such a painful loss and how early childhood trauma ricochets into adult life. The 80-minute piece is a bit slow getting focused, but when it does, it packs a wallop. My reaction immediately after seeing Reborning was that the themes didn't speak to me as strongly as those of Urbanite's last production Chicken Shop, but the issues have stayed with me days after. Another very fine play choice by the theatre.
Megan Rippey, who plays Kelly, hails from Los Angeles. I don't know what personal connections brought her to Urbanite, but Sarasota theatergoers are lucky to have her. Her performance is nuanced and reveals the many layers of a survivor. Brendan Ragan is also excellent as man-child, good natured, slightly metro-sexual Daizy. Natalie Symons as Emily, a client with issues, seems a little young for the part but makes the audience feel for and care about the character. Ms. Symons, sort of on loan from another company where her husband is artistic director, is an extremely versatile actress. Two years ago I encountered her in The Foreigner, perhaps one of the funniest plays I have ever seen, in which she played the girlfriend and was utterly winsome in the part. Here she plays a woman with more emotional depth and pain. I look forward to seeing more of her work.
Great performances from everyone in the cast can only mean one thing: great direction by Brendon Fox. Bio Information reveals that he was a second-year professor of acting at Asolo Conservatory of Acting but now works elsewhere. He brings this play vividly to life; the subject matter is unsettling but I do not find myself repulsed, which I think would be possible without superb directing.
Scenic design by Rick Cannon is a major part of the effectiveness of the production. Costumes by Riley Leonhardt also perfectly capture the moods of the play, and all of the other technical elements are superb.
Urbanite Theatre is proving to be one of the most exciting theatrical venues in the area. I intend to see every one of their future productions.
Urbanite Theatre presents Reborning through July 5, 2015, at 1487 2nd St. Sarasota, FL 34326. Visitwww.urbanitetheatre.com for more information.