Following the novel by Virginia Woolf and writer/performer Lucy Roslyn's relationship to the text, Orlando is a solo show that touches audiences and is sure to leave a lasting impression. Roslyn breaks the fourth wall at the start, explaining her desire to create an act of "communion" with the audience. By successfully conducting this theatrical sacrament, Woolf's novel is explained, expanded upon and reimagined.
With a simple set consisting of one step stool and one lamp, this play can magically and radically transform repeatedly over an hour. Woolf's book covers the span of three hundred years, traverses countless landscapes and centers on a character who switches sexes midway through; therefore, one could imagine it would prove terribly difficult to adapt for the stage. However, the minimal tech worked to bolster the storytelling in this production rather than hinder it. With the additions of lighting design and sound design (by Peter Small and Kieran Lucas, respectively), I engaged my imagination alongside Roslyn to transport the story across different locales. In addition, the lamp ingeniously served as a lighting source and, at times, an acting partner. It is not only thanks to the technical team that this minimalism paid off but also because of Roslyn's magnetic authenticity as a performer.
In the director's note, Josh Roche describes Roslyn by saying, "She is able to make you smile without knowing it, to make you empathize without thinking, and before you know it you have become friends with Lucy". Roche is right; Roslyn's powerful stage presence sells the play. As she shares the book's story, she unfolds her own story of love and loss and a struggle to claim an identity. Her emotions when talking about the woman she loved are palpable. She is fully emotionally alive onstage and watching her experience the peaks and valleys of the show is intoxicating.
The script walks a line between the universal and the personal. While much of the story follows a specific relationship in Roslyn's life, the themes of transformation, identity, romance and hope for the future are sure to have resonance with everyone in the audience in some way. By connecting this personal story with one much older and more well-known, Roslyn shows how alike we all are. Even a book published close to a century ago by a long-dead writer can connect with many people in numerous ways. We are shown how our lives may overlap by bringing a theater full of people together for this communion, how we all are capable of change. How we all can hurt and grow and learn to love again.
Woolf's Orlando is considered "the longest and most charming love letter in literature." Roslyn's Orlando is a love letter to Woolf's original text and what it can represent. See this play and you will leave changed, renewed and with faith that you can become whoever you want to be.
“Orlando” Written and Performed by Lucy Roslyn
Directed by Josh Roche 59E59 Theaters 59 E 59th Street, NY, NY https://www.59e59.org/shows/show-detail/orlando/
Carmen! is a trans-multimedia artist specializing in playwriting, acting and crochet. Originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, they are currently based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, returning to their Atlantic Oceanic roots. Their play Taking the Plunge has been performed at the Tank and the Chain off-Broadway and in the 2023 Fresh Fruit Festival slated this June. Carmen has also worked in front-of-house and technical positions for prominent theater organizations including New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse, Emursive and Future Proof. Carmen’s mission is to use play to create meaningful representation by and for underrepresented communities. For more information on Carmen! Follow them on socials @carmenacetosociety or check out www.carmenburbridge.info