Review by GRAYDON SCHLICHTERJune 23, 2015 certified reviewer
My overall impression
Sometimes you walk blind into a show, and just have to hope that you enjoy it. If only it turned out this well for me every time.
El (for short) is a marvelous and engaging story of three extraordinary women that grabs you in the first moment and simply doesn’t let go until the end. For although these women are extraordinary (and extraordinarily well-played by the trio of actresses that make up the cast) their struggles are very relatable. Not everyone has a spiritualist mother, but everyone has a relative that is a complicated blend of embarrassing and ebullient. Most of us enjoy(ed) a challenging relationship with our parents or children (or both), just as these women do. And so it is easy to join them through their trials and tribulations.
Speaking of these women, each is marvelously captured here. Dorothea, played by Alyson Terwilliger, is shown to us in the prime of her life. Her costume, hair and makeup, but especially her mannerisms, plant her firmly in her vibrant and eccentric past. Kari Swanson gives us Artie, short for Artemis, whom we see at three distinct stages of life, to better understand the woman she has become. Ms. Swanson transitions between ages splendidly helping us to understand how she became her present self, even if we don’t agree with all of her (Artie’s) choices. Finally we have Echo, brought to us by the very talanted Sienna Beckman. The character’s name alone is a tip-off as to some of what is to come. Ms. Beckman also gets to play with age, showing us a number of snapshots of Echo, back and forth, including the shows present. In some ways much of the weight of the show falls on Echo. She is the character who cares about her ties to both of the other women, more so than they do. And as the youngest character, she is the one for whom we have the most hope, the one we can root for. And Ms. Beckman, shoulders this weight quite well and the show is better for it.
A lovely script, very smart, very simple set and staging, and three excellent performers turning excellent performances. That says it all.