A NoHo Arts theater review of The Road Theater Company’s production of “Bright Half Life,” written by Tanya Barfield, directed by Amy Harmon and running through May 22.
When is a play a poem? When it is “Bright Half Life.” This is a love story, and as most love stories go, it is bits and pieces of the truth. Truth and perspective and memory and regret, told as we might remember something beautiful, in moments, often repeated and never quite the same.
Two women meet at work, one is new to the job, the other is her supervisor, and then something magical happens instantly. And they are off, sprinting through the next 30 or so years as lovers and parents and partners and apart. We see them through their own eyes, each moment spun around and mixed together and faster and faster until we are as dizzy as they are. Nothing is linear, but life never really is, is it? We all pretend that one day arrives after the next in long lines of reality, but our minds just don’t work like that and, since we spend most of our time inside our own heads, our thoughts and memories are alway mixed in with what is happening outside of ourselves. So this story told in this particularly exquisite way makes perfect sense to me.
We move through this play finding out what happens to both these wonderful and complex women as if they are only just discovering it themselves, hopping forward and backward in their timeline with nary as much as a split second to wonder where we are, or if that even matters. All lives are strings of moments and this string is just a little jumbled up. Tangled and curled as if it were kept in someone’s pocket and gently removed to show us the treasure of it.
Kacie Rogers as Vicky and Tiffany Wolff as Erica are mesmerizing, transportive, utterly fearless and yet so sweetly full of fear. They perform this monumental 90-minute feat of emotional and physical gymnastics are transcendent. They have to be, really, to channel this sublime work, effortlessly gifting us the highs and lows of 30 years of love.
Kacie Rogers as Vicky and Tiffany Wolff as Erica are mesmerizing, transportive, utterly fearless and yet so sweetly full of fear. As we travel with them on the timeline-slipping, portal jumping ride of their lifetime we are wrapped up this play and their beautiful performances, enraptured by their shining tremulous love. It’s hard to love isn’t it, amongst all that our lives involve? Money and work and being right or wrong and feeling up and down, it’s hard to love another and not fail… a lot. I think this play is about that, about failing, but it’s also about compassion and love and excitement and letting go of trying to be the perfect fool for one another or ourselves. It’s about forgiveness too. It’s about two people truly loving each other and how sometimes, sometimes just for a while, that isn’t quite enough and how that’s okay, and can be beautiful too, if we let it.
“Bright Half Life” left me breathless, and not just because it all happens at quite a tilt. I saw myself in these women, and I saw myself in their love. Art is about truth and being an audience is about seeing yourself in that truth.
A play is as much about its audience as it is the story laid before them. The writer must want their audience to connect, so that what they present is really seen. “Bright Half Life” feels utterly transparent to me. So clear, so translucent that you can see every fiber of each of these glorious beings. You feel their love and their fear and their sadness and their rapture. I left the theater feeling as if I deeply knew these two wonderful, gorgeously flawed people and wanting to know them more.
It’s a wonderful piece of work. Thank you to the lovely folks at The Road Theater Company, Taylor Gilbert and Sam Anderson, for giving us such an incredible opportunity to share in this magical “Bright Half Life.”
Running May 22
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm
After May 8 Saturdays at 2pm & Sundays at 7.30pm
The Road Theater
10747 Magnolia Blvd. North Hollywood, 91601
The Playwright and Director
TANYA BARFIELD (Playwright) Her plays have been seen Off-Broadway and around the country. She is a recipient of a PEN / Laura Pels Theater Award, a LAMDA Literary Award, a Lilly Award recognizing extraordinary women in theater, the inaugural Lilly Award Commission and a Helen Merrill Award. In 2016, The Profile Theater devoted their entire season to her work. In 2020, in addition to TV writing, Barfield will succeed Marsha Norman as co-director of The Juilliard School’s Playwrights Program.
AMY K. HARMON (Director) is a director, actor and producer. She is a member of Rogue Machine Theater Company and a founding member of Brimmer Street Theater Company. She is a graduate of The Ensemble Conservatory School at Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago and continues to study with Steppenwolf West, She holds a BA in Theater and Performance from Emerson College, where she frequently directs the outgoing senior class’s Industry Showcase in Los Angeles.
The cast of “Bright Half Life” features Kacie Rogers as Vicky and Tiffany Wolff as Erica.
The Design Team for “Bright Half Life” is as follows: Scenic Design by Brian Graves; Lighting Design by Derrick McDaniel; Sound Design by Marc Antonio Pritchett; Costume Design by Mary Jane Miller. The Production Stage Manager is Maurie Gonzalez. “Bright Half Life” is produced by Danna Hyams with consulting producer Ray Paolantonio.