In Invisible Theatre's latest production, a young woman with physical limitations and antisocial behavior has become a strain on her family, but a gifted teacher is helping her to communicate through her hands.
Director Susan Claassen keeps the play moving at an energetic clip. She has skillfully led her actors through emotional hairpin turns, from ecstasy to agony and back.
James Blair, Betsy Kruse Craig and Rachel Lacy in Miracles.
Blair and Craig offer passionate performances that aren't afraid to cut to their characters' inner pain. Blair is equally convincing when he's desperate to claim a real relationship with his daughter and when he rails against false hopes. Craig gradually exposes Kate's hunger for validation as a teacher. Each is discomfortingly eager to find fulfillment in Eve's new ability.
The Invisible Theatre always does an impressive job of building convincing worlds in limited spaces.
But the draw of "Miracles" is undoubtedly the acting. As Tom, James Blair (also the play's technical director) tingles with subdued angst and anger. Betsy Kruse Craig plays Kate Kingsley with the dual respect and bursting zeal of a truly caring teacher. But Rachel Lacy steals the show as Eve.
Lacy, who graduated from the UA last December with degrees in theater and French, takes on the autistic Eve with stunning conviction. She bobs her upper body in tune with a cosmic groove that only she can hear. She raps her head with contorted fingers, and caresses her flopping ponytail while reminiscing about horse's manes. Adopted mannerisms seem a part of her DNA.
As director, Susan Claassen keeps the developments clean and clear...
The play becomes a pinball machine of psychology, as the rolling metal ball makes lots of noise setting off one bright light after another in swirls of chaotic colors. Each of the actors by turn keeps raising the score a little higher.
Blair's acting is solid as the lawyer accustomed to making his points and winning his cases. We feel his frustration entering Eve's world where the logic is more slippery.
Craig gives an impressive performance as the therapist who shapes Eve's environment in her own favor. She makes us appreciate how much of a teacher's world really is illusion.
But it is Lacy who gives "Miracles" its center. She is totally committed to the role of Eve. Rolling her eyes, twisting her fingers, extending her arms at odd angles, we begin to see her through our own attitudes about autism. The experience is a very special kind of theater.
Rachel Lacy tackles the show's most difficult role, that of Eve, with grace and honesty. She must be incoherent and reactionary one moment, and lucid and eloquent the next (the play switches from reality into the dreams of the adults - Eve always is lucid in those dreams). Lacy makes us believe that the fantasy Eve is just as real as the autistic Eve, and she does this without ever resorting to caricature.
Betsy Kruse Craig's turn as Kate is beautifully colored - which is surprising given that Higgins made her pretty one-note. Craig was completely invested in this character, which made the audience invested as well.
James Blair cuts a fine figure as Eve's concerned Dad, who is initially seduced by the thought that his daughter is a thinking person with dreams, hopes. While he had the look and demeanor, Blair had a hard time showing an interior life. That robbed the play of some of the tension it needed.