One-woman show tells a hairy tale
Deborah Staples stars in “The Blond, The Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead” at Writers' Theatre. | Photo by Michael Brosilow
‘The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead’
Writers’ Theatre, 664 Vernon Ave., Glencoe
7:30 p.m. Tuesdays; 2 p.m. (June 27 and July 25 only) and 7:30 p.m. (except July 4) Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays (7:30 p.m. on May 31 and June 1); 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays (no 6 p.m. performance on July 1 or 29); through July 29
(847) 242-6000 or www.writerstheatre.org
Updated: May 22, 2012 9:32PM
Deborah Staples is playing a colorful role at Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe. Actually, she’s playing several of them as “The Blonde, The Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead.”
Robert Hewett’s one-woman play begins when a redheaded housewife named Rhonda Russell reveals that her husband is moving out. Rhonda’s response to this revelation leads to a spiraling series of events that affect everyone around her. We learn what happens through monologues presented by six of the people affected — all played by Staples.
This is the second time that Staples has tackled the solo show. The first was in 2008 at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre under the direction of Joseph Hanreddy, who is also staging this production.
“Three different people had come to me over the previous year and said, ‘There’s this play that’s perfect for you,’ ” Staples recalled. “When Joe finally handed me the script and said, ‘Read this over dinner and let me know what you think,’ I knew that I would have to do it.”
Twists and changes
“I was intrigued by the story itself,” Hanreddy said. “It talks about how a small event has ramifications through many people’s lives in unexpected ways. I love that kind of twist of it and, of course, the opportunity for a solo actress was very attractive to me. And Deborah and I had been working for a long time together at the Milwaukee Rep,” where Hanreddy was artistic director from 1993-2010. “I chose it with her in mind.”
Staples’ instant acceptance of the role was based on one of her philosophies of acting. “I’ve always hung my career on the power of suggestion in theater — believing that you can create a world and a character and a human being through a completeness of an interior world that outwardly is suggested to the audience. Then the audience fills in all the rest,” she explained. “This was the vehicle by which I could test my mettle.”
That first outing in a nearly 750-seat theater was such a positive experience that Staples agreed to take on the roles again in Writers’ intimate Vernon Street space. “The idea of a solo actress holding attention in that big arena was part of the challenge,” Hanreddy said of the earlier, highly successful, staging. “We really enjoyed working on it in Milwaukee. We were intrigued by the idea of doing it in an intimate space.”
“I sort of feel like now I’m doing the whole show in close-up,” Staples joked.
When we spoke, Staples had been rehearsing in the Writers’ Theatre space for a couple of days. “One of the glorious things that I’ve found so far is I can see eyes of people that I’m talking to,” she said. “I love it because it’s a totally different journey depending on the eyes that I’m talking to — what they bring to it. Everything they’re walking in the door with changes my side of the story.”
The actor is also delighted that the proximity of the audience allows her to use more subtlety in her performance. “That is a gift for me,” said Staples, who has performed with the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre for 16 seasons and performed with American Players Theatre for seven seasons.
Staging the play before has made the rehearsal process somewhat easier and has allowed director and actor “to go deeper into the material,” Hanreddy said. And it lets Staples describe the characters as “friends that we’ve had for three-and-a-half years.”