Arena Stage is one of our neighborhood’s most prized possessions, but relatively underutilized by the people who live here. In talking with neighbors and friends, the answer for why this is usually, “I think it’s too fancy for me to just walk in. I don’t know what I would be getting into.” For this KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD, I specifically chose to do no research ahead of time on the play, nor the venue.
It’s 7:35pm and I’ve just walked up to Arena Stage for the opening night of Ann Randolph’s LOVELAND. I am meeting The Southwester’s very own Arena Stage reviewer extraordinaire, Sheila Wickouski, who, funnily enough, I have yet to meet in my tenure on the paper. As I walk up to the entrance on 6th street, I notice tickets are not taken at the front door—the venue is open for all to come and look around on the inside (there’s even a restaurant). Then the moment of fear strikes me: I don’t know where to get my tickets or even what Sheila looks like. The simple layout of the entrance level is calming and straightforward: the box office, including same-day ticket sales, is to the right; coat check is to the left. Once I find Sheila, we walk upstairs where an usher leads the way to the Kogod Cradle, and there we meet the ticket taker. She directs us inside where the next usher walks us directly to our seats—easy enough! As Sheila and I settle in, we look around to observe the other patrons in the audience. While I am dressed in a blazer, the gentlemen next to us is in a polo shirt and jeans; two rows over a lady in a mink sits behind a team of young teenagers dressed in typical teenager fashion. Some young, some old, some gay, some straight, some white, some black; everyone here is commonly united by the bond that is our local theater – and what a spectacle we were in for!
LOVELAND depicts the story of a woman on a cross-country flight as she copes with the loss of her mother. For 75 minutes Ann Randolph, who also wrote the script, mesmerizes the audience with her ability to carry the stage on her own. Acting as Frannie Potts, Randolph is a one-person, but multi-character, show that should not be missed. Through many laughs and few dry eyes, Randolph pushes the limits of the audience and our sensitivities to death. As we walked out, the list of adjectives used by patrons describing the show were as wide-ranging as the characters therein: tear-jerker, amazing, disgusting, hilarious, over-the-edge, relatable, and enlightening. To me, it was everything a play should be: something that makes you think, which is all I could do as I made my way home along M Street on the first night of spring.
By: Shannon Vaughn