Theatre Review

Wilbury's 'Dance Nation' deals with adolescent trauma

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It ain’t easy being a female adolescent.

Author Clare Barron, one of the hot young playwrights today, has provided two different plays to Wilbury Theatre: “Dance Nation” and “You Get Older,” which are being presented in repertory through December 22.

First up is “Dance Nation” a provocative, often profane look at a group of young dancers preparing for the Nationals. Led by an artsy, insidious dance teacher who likes to play the students against each other, they struggle with their talents, friendships and feelings, discussing “girl issues” with each other and presenting monologues to the audience. Barron has a keen insight into adolescent minds that dig deep into sensitive areas, handled beautifully one moment and brutally the next, by an excellent cast.

Interesting to note that seven of the nine actors are new to Wilbury with all but two having experience with “competing” theatres. Looking from a positive perspective, there are so many fine actors in Rhode Island theatre companies, sharing them becomes a positive factor for presenting high quality theatre.

Joe Wilson Jr., one of the more active participants in the theatre community, takes a hiatus from Trinity Rep to play this role that seems made for him as the dance teacher.

Angela Brazil, a member of the Trinity Rep family for over 20 years, directs her first play at Wilbury and does a marvelous job in capturing the author’s many messages.

And there are loads of messages about parental domination, rivalry versus friendship, winning and losing, talent and sex. The play is a definite R, with many sexual references and talk of female hygiene.

This is a true repertory presentation, but kudos to Alison Russo as Zuzu, the dancer with a self-image problem and Catia as the dancer with an extra amount of confidence.

“Dance Nation” is 90 minutes (no intermission) of raw theatre, with a hard-hitting, R-rated presentation that has heart beneath its rough edges. Call 400-7100 for reservations.

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