Produced as part of the Women’s Theatre Festival, Carol Torian’s one-act play The Traditionalists is definitely worth seeing. But beware; it is not a “feel-good” play. The script is powerful, shocking, and thought-provoking. The play’s subject is domestic abuse, and we are witnesses to one evening of it. The acting is phenomenal, and the pacing is brisk.
When the curtain rises, domineering husband Nicholas (Douglas Lally) has come home from work, submissive wife Tenille (Elaine Quagliata) has prepared dinner, and the couple sits down to eat. From the very beginning, both actors’ posture and body language define their relationship.
There is a tense silence that Tenille eventually breaks in an effort to make pleasant small-talk. Nicholas, however, will have none of it. He launches into severe criticisms of every aspect of Tenille’s performance of her “job” as a housewife. The carpets need cleaning; she wastes “his” money; the chicken she has served for dinner is too dry; the drink she fixes for him is too weak; etc.
Nicholas treats Tenille like a servant, and congratulates himself on his generosity. He restricts her social life and criticizes the few activities and friendships that she manages to cultivate.
The couple has three grown children, and Nicholas is harshly critical of all of them, too. Caution: The action of the play eventually does escalate to violence.
Douglas Lally’s Nicholas is appropriately despicable. The audience takes an instant dislike to him. And Lally believably moves from one topic to another, becoming progressively more agitated as the evening progresses. Yet, there is another side to him. We learn about troubles in his past and about his monetary support (albeit begrudging) for two of his children.
Elaine Quagliata’s Tenille gains audience sympathy from the very start. We feel sorry for her and also admire the sparks of spirit (however few and however dim) that we are able to see. Is there hope?
First-time director Pam McClure manages to make a scene of two-people-at-the-table-eating-dinner visually interesting. That is, there is enough action to prevent an overwhelming feeling of stagnation. At the same time, however, the scene is stagnant enough to symbolize the mired-down condition of this couple’s marriage.
Costumer Emily Johns provides Tenille with a modest outfit that totally defies remarks made by Nicholas. A strong choice for Nicholas’ clothing: his crisp white shirt. After a long day at the office, he still has that starched-and-ironed look. It reinforces his rigid nature and reminds us that he is well looked-after by his servant/wife.
Set (by Sage Amthor Twiss) and props (by playwright Carol Torian herself) define the household as upper middle class. The length of the table and its seating arrangement is also crucial to aspects of this story.
In a postshow talkback, dramatist Carol Torian mentioned that she had originally written this piece to be produced as part of a collaboration between the Cary Playwrights’ Forum and Project Vox, a project that was to focus on domestic abuse. That project, however, stalled. In the talkback, Torian also shared what she considers a central message of the play: “Love is complicated.”
The show also runs Aug. 12-14 at Umstead Park United Church of Christ at 8208 Brownleigh Dr. in Raleigh, NC. This coming weekend, a second one-act, Men Always Leave by Naima Yetunde Ince, will be included in the production.
The Traditionalists will make you think and make you feel. It will make you wonder about relationships like this one. How did they end up like this? How can we prevent this kind of misery? Where can they possibly go from here?
If all of the plays presented by the Women’s Theatre Festival, organized and produced by Ashley Popio, are as high quality as The Traditionalists, the Triangle area is blessed to be hosting this event.
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 10th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 2 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/arts/archives/2016/08/10/theater-review-domestic-violence-drama-the-traditionalists-leaves-us-wanting-morebut-not-in-a-good-way. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Aug. 9th Triangle Review review by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/08/an-extraordinary-show-the-traditionalists-stars-elaine-quagliata-and-douglas-lally/.)
The Women’s Theatre Festival presents THE TRADITIONALISTS at 8 p.m. Aug. 12 and 13 and 3 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Umstead Park United Church of Christ, 8208 Brownleigh Dr, Raleigh, North Carolina 27617.
TICKETS: $16.52, with service fee.
BOX OFFICE: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2559982.
PRESENTER: http://www.womenstheatrefestival.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/1081089605266087/.
VENUE: http://www.upucc.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/UmsteadParkUCC.
Carol Torian (playwright): http://www.shewrites.com/profile/CarolTorian (official website) and https://www.facebook.com/carol.torian (Facebook page).
Pam McClure (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/pam.mcclure.965 (Facebook page).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.