It's Body Awareness Week at Shirley State College in Vermont. Phyllis, a college professor, is in charge of the festivities and has invited visiting artist Frank to stay in the home she shares with her girlfriend Joyce and Joyce's son Jared. Tensions rise as Phyllis and Joyce try to convince Jared that he may have a psychological disorder all the while Frank's nude photographs of women bring up differing opinions on exhibitionism, sexuality and self-image. The week comes and goes, and at the end we're left with an endearing portrait of a Middle America family working to do the right thing and figure out who they are in the process.
Body Awareness by Annie Baker is an ambitious comedic drama that features a relatively minimal dramatic arc but leaves you struck with a magnitude of things to ponder and discuss afterwards. The story sheds light on an abundance of issues while not pushing an agenda that tells you which position regarding these issues is the "right" one. Covering identity, mental health, self-image, homosexuality, exhibitionism and sexuality, the characters struggle to find out who they are and what they stand for, portraying the insecurities faced by all of society.
The Wilma Theater's production utilizes a homey, multi-functional set that highlights realistic details including glaring classroom fluorescents, skylights displaying recent snow accumulation and a kitchen that allowed Mary Martello (Joyce) to literally chop ingredients and cook a meal onstage. It was truly the details that made the show which definitely extends to the intricate personalities portrayed by Grace Gonglewski (Phyllis) and Dustin Ingram (Jared).
Body Awareness is a humorous yet poignant exploration of key issues of our time. It won't provide the answers but instead forces you to contemplate the complexities and decide for yourself. Though the script includes the line "We need to stop using our brains so much," the play and its purpose are all evidence to the contrary.
Performances of Body Awareness by The Wilma Theater run through February 5, 2012. For tickets and more information, visit https://wilmatheater.org.
Photo Credit: Alexander Iziliaev