Asking For It
nytheatre.com review by Joe Beaudin
August 14, 2007
Ingredients for making a successful and enjoyable one-person show: (1) a strong performer with lots of presence, (2) an interesting story, (3) lots of drama, (4) lots of comedy, and (5) honesty, honesty, honesty. Joanna Rush's solo show, Asking for It, has all of this and more.
Asking for It tells the tumultuous life story of Bernadette O'Connell, a bubbly naive Irish Catholic girl who is obsessed with sainthood, meeting Mr. Right, and the grandiose dream of becoming a New York City Rockette. Her life takes a series of odd twists and turns that ultimately lead her to a spiritual awaking and self-actualization.
The strengths of this piece are two-fold: the performance of Joanna Rush and the precise direction of Lynne Taylor-Corbett. It is these two artists who transform this story (written by Rush) into an entertaining and provocative piece. Rush is a pro on stage and her performance is not to be missed. She plays ten different characters, dances, sings, sweats, and dances some more as she drives the story along. Her energy and presence reminded me of a young Bette Midler as she held the audience in the palm of her hand. The specificity and physicality of the characters she plays are a highlight, particularly in a scene where she simultaneously plays Bernadette and her Southern dancing comrade, Lorrel. Rush's comic timing shines here and her realization of the characters not only helps to tell the story, but allowed me as an audience member to visualize two different characters having a scene together, and not just a solo performer playing two parts.
Likewise, the direction of Taylor-Corbett is tight and her influence on the success of the production can be seen in the way the story is laid out for the audience. She uses music and the dancing of Joanna Rush to transition from scene to scene, never leaving a dull moment or empty space throughout the play. Also, along with sound designer/composer Joachim Horsley, she uses sound and music to set the atmosphere of each scene, which draws the audience into the world of the main character. For instance, sound effects in a car scene and a church scene are simple touches that enhance the production. It may seem like a minute detail, but really, it's the details in the acting and directing that make this piece pulse.
The material is heavy at times, but the point of view is light, which makes it honest and truthful. It allows the audience to feel, rather than watch, the character feel on stage. We are welcomed into the world of Bernadette O'Connell, and we feel with her every step of the way.