The Woman Behind The Pearls & The Creepy Smile
"Mistakes are only mistakes if you notice them"
June of Arc
June of Arc is the best acting I have ever seen from Heather Stone. And I've seen some mighty fine acting from Heather Stone in the past. Her work here as June is leaps and bounds beyond that, and probably some of the best acting in the whole Fringe Festival this year. Even the times when June of Arc the show didn't thrill me, June herself had my full attention.
Mom was especially fond of the 1950s commercials they had interspersed throughout the show. They were enormously entertaining for two reasons - they were the actual texts of the original commercials, weird though they be, they were authentic (the radioactive skin cream? wow.) The other reason was the design of the commercials - all props and masks (by Ryan Hill and Derek Miller) in black, white and gray, sometimes photocopies of the original artwork. The attention to detail and crisp execution of these odd little ads was a high point. There was also creepiness in the affect of the actors and some amusing gender-bending in the roles. All this made for very pointed but funny stretches of nostalgia.
June of Arc is essentially a "one-joke" premise - the stifled housewife, here represented by the ultimate pop-culture icon, June Cleaver. The main reason the conceit sustains itself so well is that Ryan Hill's sharp writing is in Stone's very capable hands (with Hill and Lisa Moreira serving as the directing eyes on the production). I can't say enough good things about Heather Stone here. Both her physical and vocal control were astonishing. I've seen Heather turn in some pretty wild performances in the past, but this one was tightly buttoned up. The cracks in June's perfect facade are barely perceptible, but they indicate vast chasms of self-doubt and lost opportunity bubbling under her placid surface.
Hill and Stone's June is a woman who could have been a great many things - if she hadn't lived in the 1940s and 1950s. Men, and men alone, still held sway in society. Women had to know their place and learn to like it. June must find comfort in the fact that her boys will have every opportunity she has been denied. June could have been a pathetic or tragic figure. She also could have been a noble martyr. She is none of these things. She is human. She twitches under the weight of oppression, but she works within the system she's given.
Memories of an ill-fated love affair with a World War II pilot are interspersed with vignettes of June's daily life. But June is the only one who gets to speak. Her husband (Hill again) and boys Wally (Miller) and Beaver (Matthew Glover) merely grunt, and fall over. They speak different languages, and live in different worlds, even though they live in the same house. On some level, they'll never understand each other. Husband and sons go from 1950s suburban dress to more distressing costumes - homeless man, satanist punk, hospital gown, retail uniform, blood-stained military fatigues, and so on.
Once used, the costumes and props are simply dropped where they are. The debris of everyday life surrounding June - one more set of things she needs to pick up. A woman's work is never done.
I put Sandbox Theatre in my Top 10 list this year because I was excited for them to bring their act to the Fringe. They didn't disappoint. This is a perfect example of one of their productions in a Fringe-sized package. The show ran a little short, which had me wondering what else we might have learned of June. To get beyond the basic premise, the script and production would no doubt have needed more room to breathe than the Fringe might allow - at least to give it the full-on Sandbox treatment. Part of me really wanted to see them try anyway.
But for now, as is, it's an impressive piece of acting by Heather Stone in a solid production, so June of Arc is...
Their website - www.aboutthisplay.com
Their show page
Their Fringe-For-All preview
Fringe 2009 - 8:30 Monday - show #25