Woman in Mind | Albion Theatre

Photo of the cast of Woman in Mind courtesy of Albion Theatre.

Performed 06.07–23.24 at the Kranzberg Black Box Theatre (501 N. Grand Blvd.)

Sideshow Bob isn’t the only one who can step on a rake with style.

In June, St. Louis’s theatrically-inclined anglophiles were treated twice. First, there was As You Like It, this year’s production of Shakespeare in the Park. Next came Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind, performed by the Albion theater company. The plays are set some 350 years apart, but they do have a few details in common. Both plays have a pastoral theme, they take place mostly outdoors, and they feature strong female performances. The plots also revolve around multiple marriages—however, one marriage in Woman in Mind is a hallucination, caused by a chance encounter with a garden rake.

The play begins with Susan (Emily Baker) lying dazed on the grass. She’s awakened by a doctor (Danny Brown), who delivers a stream of nonsense that gradually develops into intelligible speech. The story unfolds entirely from Susan’s perspective; her character never leaves the stage and audiences are meant to see, hear, and feel what she does. Susan’s “family”—devoted husband Andy (Isaiah Di Lorenzo), sporting brother Tony (Joseph Garner), and lovely daughter Lucy (Sarah Vallo)—arrives to check on her, but the doctor cannot see or hear them. The audience realizes that these characters live in Susan’s elaborate fantasy world, which comically and poignantly contrasts with her real world.

The cast of “Woman in Mind”

The minimal set design—a patch of grass, lawn chairs, a stone frog—reflects Susan’s stiflingly small domestic life. It also allows the audience to focus on the cast’s colorful performances. Susan is a complex character and Baker fully commits to the role. Her banter with her real husband (Matt Hanify) and high-strung sister-in-law (Susan Wylie) is laced with sarcasm and witty asides. On the flipside, her conversations with estranged son Rick (Ryan Lawson-Maeske) are shot through with longing and regret. The play features few transitions and no scene changes, which gives the narrative a brisk pace—even when imaginary characters weave in and out.

The cast gave their final performance on Saturday June 22, but the Albion theater company will be back in October with LUNGS, a topical comedy about romance and family in a time of political and environmental disaster. This reviewer is certainly intrigued. | Rob Von Nordheim

Stay tuned for more from the Albion Theatre Company by watching albiontheatrestl.org.

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