When unmarried Caroline finds out she is pregnant, she decides to return to her home on the Isle of Wight, a small island in the English Channel, to figure out her choices. Should she keep the baby and raise it alone (she doesn’t want either potential father involved), raise it with her friend Kate (who is gay), have an abortion, or give the child up for adoption?
These choices are not made in a vacuum. Caroline (Josie Landry) rents a room from Stella (Kaylee Lambert) and reconnects with her old school chum Fran (Janely Alvarez) who act like the devil and angel on her shoulder, although neither is really devil nor angel. The reality is they, like Caroline’s choices, are complex and nuanced. When Kate (Dominique Roman) and her teenage girlfriend D (Juliana McManus) visit in Act 2, the waves of complexity increase.
The cast of “Whale Music,” which opened Feb. 17 and continues Feb. 25-27 in Lamar University’s Studio Theatre, do an excellent job of bringing these women to life, imbuing them with vibrancy and wit. We should all be lucky enough to have friends (and occasional frenemies) like these.
The is an early play by Anthony Minghella who is best known for writing and directing the Oscar-winning “The English Patient.”
Act 1 is a real three-hander as Caroline is the hub around which Fran and Stella expand upon their opposing views of relationship and female roles. Fran is an encyclopedia of motherhood, while Stella’s opinion of men is somewhat less than favorable, implying they are merely tools to be used and abused. Landry does a great job in an unshowy role, leaving Lambert and Alvarez to bring the feisty humor. The three actors complement each other perfectly.
When Kate and D arrive, Caroline finds herself in the middle of two opposing halves. Kate and D bring the real world into the cosy fantasy womb of Caroline’s home. Roman is good as the older Kate who was Caroline’s teacher and roommate. McManus is fun as a mopey bundle of jealousy and rebellion.
When Sheelagh (C.J. Jeffcoat) makes an awkward appearance, despite Caroline’s wishes, the women’s ersatz family is thrown off. Jeffcoat, and Karlye Ramos do fine work in supporting roles.
Of lesser importance but gratifying to this native of the English south coast, the cast did an excellent job with the accents. Caroline wasn’t the only one transported home.
Minghella’s script is full of wit and humor without negating the serious choices in play, and director Joel Grothe has a sure hand on the rudder as he guides the actors through the play. Liz Freese’s set is at once minimalist and epic at the same time.
Grothe said the play was chosen because LU’s theater program has a strong core of female actors he was happy to find a script that was not overdone but also offered roles that would test the actors.
This ensemble passes the test. “Whale Music” deserves an A+.
Show times are 7:30 p.m., Feb. 25 and 26, and 2 p.m., Feb. 27. General admission tickets are $15. For reservations, visit lamar.edu/lutdtix.