A bride fleeing her wedding bursts into a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness, where she is soon snowbound with the solitary resident, Henry Harry. These two refugees from civilization are forced to deal with their suddenly intimate situation in Brilliant Traces, a roller-coaster of a play by Cindy Lou Johnson, presented by Performing Arts of Woodstock (PAW) from June 24 to July 10.
“This play is imaginative and out of the box,” said director Sande Shurin. “It’s very funny and then very threatening, then fun again — up and down, like life, where who knows what comes next?”
Local high school history teacher Chris Grady stars as Henry Harry, with Maria Elena Maurin as Rosannah DeLuce, the errant bride. Shurin, who teaches acting both in New York City and in Woodstock, first encountered the play when Maurin brought it to her class to work on. Maurin liked the script so much, she decided to produce the play in the city with another Shurin student, Evan Leone, originally from Kingston. When Leone was given a role in an HBO series, the play was cancelled. Shurin had directed Clybourne Park last year for PAW, so she offered to bring Brilliant Traces to Woodstock, again with Leone as the male lead. Another TV series, Feed the Beast, came along for the young actor, so Shurin recruited Grady, yet another of her students, to play Henry.
Brilliant Traces, which opened at New York’s Cherry Lane Theater in 1989, uses heightened reality to explore the sense of isolation and the need to be understood. “It makes good use of what theater is,” said Shurin, “as opposed to more realistic plays. It isn’t O’Neill. It’s very edgy, gutsy, bold.”
Shurin’s experience includes directing on Broadway (The Price of Genius) and at such venues as BAM, Lincoln Center, Playwrights Horizon, Carnegie Hall, and LaMama. Her many students have included Anthony Rapp, Matthew Modine, Sylvia Miles, Jai Rodriguez, and Tony winners Casey Nicholaw and Amy Spanger. She enjoys directing for PAW, which allows her to work a bit on the experimental side, while using the “Transformational Acting” style she brings to her directing and teaching.
“I demand a high bar for the actors,” said Shurin. “An actor needs to be willing to be with their own experience and not pretend to have an experience. I used to teach based on memory, but it took people out of the moment. Part of my technique is using what you’re feeling, using your impulses. This kind of work carries into my directing. ”
Her preference is to work on plays and films that involve transformation and transcending limitation. “I like things you can turn into an experience that takes people beyond their reality of the moment to see new possibilities and look inside themselves. This play fits right into that category.”
Performing Arts of Woodstock presents Brilliant Traces at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, 56 Rock City Road, Woodstock. Shows are June 24 and 26, July 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, and 10, with evening shows at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 1:30 p.m. There is no Saturday performance on June 25. Prices: $23 general admission, $20 for seniors and students. All seats $15 at the June 23 preview, 8 p.m. See https://performingartsofwooodstock.org for info and online tickets. Reservations are also available at (845) 679-7900. The Community Center is air conditioned, and there is tiered seating for the show.