JANUARY 25, 2016

Review: ‘Ringing True’ at Miami Theater Center

One-woman show blends performance art, cabaret, tradition of Jewish storytelling Runs through Feb. 7 as part of SandBox Series

Rebecca Joy Fletcher’s one-woman show Ringing True is personal, funny and intelligent theater. It’s this season’s second performance in Miami Theater Center’s SandBox Series, which offers theater artists the chance to develop and present new work with the assistance of a Knight Arts Challenge grant.

Creating a show that’s a blend of performance art, live theater, cabaret and homage to the tradition of Jewish storytelling, Chicago-based actress and playwright Fletcher displays a unique voice that’s universal in its appeal.

Ringing True is about a woman who trades America for Paris in the midst of a difficult choice. Should she marry her boyfriend, Alan? Is he the one? What if he isn’t? “HaShem, you gotta help me,” she pleads to God just after arriving in Paris. She asks for a sign, and when the first isn’t convincing, she asks for another and then another.

Over the course of 75 minutes, the actress plays six characters during a whirlwind tour of the city, including Isabelle the Zebra at The Circle Cabaret; Rabbi Akiva, whom Fletcher meets in a dream, though she envisions the historical Jewish figure as a flirtatious Marlboro man with a Southern accent; and Mister Moskowitz, an 88-year-old rabbi whom Fletcher seeks out to interpret her dream. Each is so richly drawn and inhabited with such depth, eventually we believe they are distinct characters, not one actress playing them all.

Director Michael Yawney uses the minimalist black box space in a way that doesn’t detract from Fletcher’s tour de force. From her first swoop across the space, the American in Paris soaks in the eclectic eccentricities of the City of Light. She’s so full of vivid life, you can’t help but want to accompany her on her quest to make the right decision, if there is such a thing.

As a playwright, Fletcher avoids anecdotes and uses comedy to dissect her main character’s thoughts. Chicago composer Stuart Rosenberg collaborated with her on the original score that is expertly played by the three-piece band: Martin Hand, band leader and guitarist; Rich Caruso, accordionist; and Patricia Jancova, violinist. Lilting romantic music floats in and out throughout the piece, interwoven with comedic songs sung by Fletcher and Talmudic-inspired music with lyrics by the playwright (she is an ordained synagogue cantor). Off-Broadway director Bob Goldstone arranged the superb orchestrations as musical director.

Ringing True is a good example of what the SandBox Series aims to bring to Miami — an opportunity to grow new, often experimental works, where an artist such as Fletcher can combine originality and vulnerability and create an intimate and mystical night of theater.

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