Review: ‘Sheltered, ‘Questioning the meaning of Love and Protection
‘Sheltered’ is one of the most well written plays I’ve ever seen.
The Playwright, Alix Sobler, is the winner of the 2018 Alliance/Kendeda playwrighting competition. The competition gives the winner, a student playwright, a production of their work. A FULL PRODUCTION, FULLY STAGED. This Competition bridges the gap between student playwright and working professional. I’m so thankful that she won this year because this story is EVERYTHING.
‘Sheltered’ takes place pre-WW2, and brilliantly holds up a mirror to the audience. It sets up some incredible parallels between 1939 and 2018. So many of the discussed material is prevalent today in the world. It chronicles, the humiliation of minorities, domestic abuse, and so many more things I don’t even want to spoil.
Like I mentioned earlier ‘Sheltered’ holds up a mirror to the audience. It makes you realize how far we’ve come but still how close we are. This show takes place seventy-nine years in the past and some of the conversations in these households are still happening today. AHHH it’s just so good and the writing is immaculate. The writing alone shows why we should move away from overproduced works and invest in new works.
‘Sheltered’ is something that audiences have never seen. If I see one more production of Macbeth, I’m going to lose my mind. We focus so much on the brilliant writers of the past that we miss the playwrights that took from each of the greats in the past, added themselves, and gave us something better. Alix is an example of a playwright that will challenge the way we think as audience members and she is what we need in theatre. At this moment in time, audience need to almost be tricked into thinking deeper because of how easy it is to ignore the world’s issues. Art like this puts it in your face without you even noticing it. By the time you realize what it’s talking about you’re emotionally invested in the characters and the story. Already wondering “What’s going to happen next?” that’s why this play works so beautifully.
I got to see this play with some of my friends from the Alliance Theatre Teen Ensemble and this one resonated with all of us. I can say faithfully this is the only show I’ve ever had involuntary physical reactions to. By that I mean, there were moments that I was sitting on the edge of my seat and didn’t realize it. There was one moment in act two, where all at once it seemed like every audience member took a deep breath.
We synced. We’d all become so invested in the story that we’d linked together. Our hearts beating at the same time, breaths all happening at one, it was something I’ve never experienced in a play. This is truly a work of art that’s been brewing for over three years.
It was opening night of ‘Sheltered’, which means there was a cast party and we had the privilege of going. There we met the show’s writer, the actors, understudies, stage managers, and everyone else that keeps the show up and running. We had the opportunity to talk to Alix Solber, the playwright, and she took all of our questions without reserve. She told us how long the process really is and how rare it is to even have your work produced. It’s especially rare to have your work’s world premiere in one of the most well known theatres in the US.
It really takes time to cultivate a work like this. Three years for Alix, rewrite after rewrite. Working on multiple drafts at the same time. Pushing through when you’ve read your own play so much it doesn’t sound like English anymore. She knew those lines word for word and I can only congratulate her for all it’s taken to get here.
I must also appreciate the set crew and everyone backstage making sure ‘Sheltered’ runs smoothly. It’s a bit of a spoiler but there is an entire set change between the acts. The entire set changes, it is the most impressive set I’ve seen. It’s gorgeous and also invites you into the story and forces you to stay connected. Let’s get into this character breakdown.
Lauren Boyd Lane as Hani Mueller: I felt too many emotions during her performance. It was real. It was perhaps the most authentic performance I’ve ever seen. The accent work alone was absolutely remarkable. She is really the driving force of Act two and her performance really hits deeply. The way she speaks just makes you get it. You get where they are, the circumstances, and everything dictating her character.
Amanda Drinkall as Evelyn Kirsch: I really enjoyed the character she created in the play, her character work had to be extensive for this kind of performance. You could see she’d created a world around the character that she’s having to break out of it. Just like in ourselves she had to accurately adjust to the uncomfortable feelings the character was having within her. It gets really confusing when you say it like that, but I enjoyed her performance. Something that I made a goal to look at was the journey of her facial expressions and wow. In the first act, she’s giving you the most beautiful smile then throughout it fades and I loved that probably unconscious choice.
Park Krausen as Roberta Bloom: The freedom in this character is everything!! She came in hot and was everything. She expertly navigated the complexities of this character. The backstory alone written for the character is difficult to begin with. She was excellent in this role, she played every turn masterfully. She was finding her way through this maze of a character without looking. This performance will stick with me because I loved it all.
Lee Osorio as Martin Bloom: This character is the one that I think is still around today. The personality of this person is a common one in the south. The traditionalist, running away from self identity and creating something for themselves. I’ve seen Lee do so many shows at this point that I’m just in awe of his versatility. I really like the performance of just an average person that has things to hide. it’s harder to play something that isn’t written and that’s something he does incredibly well in this show.
John Skelley as Leonard Kirsch: I told him this myself, he is a masterclass in acting. This man is so present always that it’s unbelievable. He was reacting, and he didn’t have line for the next two or three pages of the show but I never saw him log out. He listened the entire time and that absolutely blew my mind. John said, “It’s both one of the hardest things and easiest things to do” and I took that away from everything.
He was so present that I was in awe and watching him while the main action took place on the other side of the stage. He was organic, naturally living in this space. A comfortability in this world that I’ve never seen before, so comfortable in the world of the play that the stage didn’t exist. It was such an amazing performance just because he didn’t check out and he listened to his scene partners.
Shout out to everyone that makes this ‘Sheltered’ possible: Stage management, the Alliance board, the creative team, Hair and makeup, wardrobe, set, sound engineer, lighting operators, and stage operations. Go see this show running now until March 25th at Actor’s express by tickets here: https://alliancetheatre.org/production/2017-18/sheltered