A new play, The Session, by Harvey Williams, focuses on several stereotyped adult women characters needing an anger management therapy session to move forward and beyond their current station in life as the play examines the back circumstances of issues facing women of various ethnic backgrounds and each woman’s social status.
In part, The Session looks at a hard-crusted diva type (Reatha) that believes everyone judges her during every waking minute and thus keeps her from allowing cracks in her armor-plated facade. Second, an angry Black woman (Davis) who watches a continuing parade of others come to America and overstep her in line for her advancement. Next, a country-girl (Beth) who learned early that her body and sexual charms open the wrong doors to acceptance. And, finally, a Hispanic woman (Cynthia) who finds that life if America forces her into shadows and the American Dream remains out of reach. And finally, the last piece, the facilitator (Hunter) who seeks to break their barriers and connect them all allows the group to focus around one central but unplanned theme–survival.
A talented cast of five women orchestrate the main play while two introductory performers introduce each act with some poetic interpretations. One speaks in rhyme, akin to a spoken rap while the other explores the anger many women encounter against a harsh reality. Both pieces stand unique but their connection to the acts to follow does not immediately connect. Still, both performers give good interpretive poetic words.
As for The Session, the opening scene with dramatic lighting helps set the tone for what follows. But the next part loses the momentum as the participants arrive for a court appointed anger management therapy session. And as the women work their way through Act I, their issues slowly come to the forefront. By the end of Act I, the audience sees what the women need to confront. Understanding begins with seeing their individual pain and their reaction to other pain.
No one knows where this leads as Act I concludes and no contrived plot gives hints or notions to final resolutions. Suffice it to say no one knows where Act II leads. And, being a new play, no one can prepare for what follows. Therein lies some of the enjoyment of viewing a new piece. The audience discovers the plot and piece without any precognition or influence. Actors, as well, experience and grow as audience reaction helps them to craft and build their characters.
Williams said he just gave the play to the actresses and let them build and develop their characters from a blank canvas. Similarly, the actresses confirmed that free license allowed them to craft the characters that no one else has experienced. Such freedom and trial and error allowed them to learn and develop as they rehearsed.
As the director, Williams, said he chose the actresses, knowing their work, and set them free to explore the characters they wanted to display. And, it works well with this piece. The ensemble makes the piece come together and move toward a resolution not foreseen.
To say more about The Session would spoil for future viewers, but know that with this cast, expect perfection from Marilyn Lynch, Lynn King, Nichole Santorella, Alexandria Washington, and Vanessa Harper. The poetic introductions come from Angela Roux and Cheri Woods.
The Session, produced by The Melting Pop, opened Aug. 23 at the Just Off Broadway Theater and continues through Sept. 8. Curtain time is 7:30p.m. and the play runs about two hours, including one 15 minute intermission.