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The operative word for this twice-extended production at the Performance Network is stun. The careful unfolding of the plot often left me stunned. Even more so, Suzi Regan, the sole performer, is stunning. In The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, the actress plays not three but seven characters, male and female, in a staggering range of ages. The title refers to an incident involving a jilted wife, her neighbor, and the blonde that the neighbor "catches" out with her husband at the mall. One misguided act of vengeance sets off a chain of events that takes the remainder of the play to unravel, and forever alters the lives of three families in the process.

At the forefront are Regan's brilliant characterizations, some as terrifically funny as others are devastating. To her great credit, the actress so embodies each of these characters, and makes them so physically and vocally distinct, that the play feels more like a collection of monologues than a one-woman show. However, what sets this apart from many other monologue collections is the details these stories have in common. Robert Hewett's 2004 script absolutely rewards the audience for paying attention, as one character's aside becomes another's catalyst. Regan and director David Wolber are careful to highlight these details without spelling it out for the audience, and the result is a tauntingly incomplete picture created by these several voices.

Perfectly complementing Regan's work are the set and lighting design by Daniel C. Walker and the costumes by Monika Essen. The set is nearly bare, unadorned, and features three translucent walls that showcase the subtle lighting, keeping all attention on the characters where it belongs. A counterpoint to the sparse stage, the quickly changed — yet complete — costumes and wigs accentuate Regan's transformations. An especially inspired touch is that the actress never leaves the audience's sight. Between scenes, she changes characters even as we watch her change her appearance, sometimes onstage and at other times in silhouette behind the transparent walls. These changes are done with as much care as the monologues themselves, demanding the audience's attention at all times.

The absolute skill on display made this play a joy to watch, and I believe it will count among the best of this season. This is what a production firing on all cylinders looks like.


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