By the numbers: 4 . . . 27 . . . 24 . . . 38. Four Actresses . . . 27 roles . . . 24 perfect pearls . . . 38 years. This is Michelle Lowe’s String of Pearls, currently on the boards at North Coast Repertory Theatre, under the direction of Karen Carpenter. There is just a slight touch of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde as the pearls make their way through 38 years, beginning and ending at the same point.
The pearls have some serious ordeals: the strand breaks, they get lost and found, they get buried, they have, effectively, a life of their own. They also affect people differently. They are seen as valueless and priceless, as beautiful and cheap, as important and insignificant.
The play is about their relationship to their owners and those that look upon them. Lowe’s script requires close attention for the thread, at times, becomes very, very thin. Add to this that there are four actresses, playing the 27 roles, who have many costume changes as well as character changes.
The story moves from the present to 1969, from Southern California to the New York City area. It also touches Milwaukee, Boston, Nyack and Poughkeepsie. These wonderful actresses play characters from three to 74.
Kwana Martinez moves deftly from a present day 74 to her earlier self at 39. Her age shifts are so complete that we can sense the age shift even before a line of dialog or a change of costume. Christy Yael did a 43 year age shift from Kyle to three-year-old Zoe. It their characterizations as well those of Jennifer Seifert and Crystal Sershen that is so amazing. A mere change of costume and all else changes from inflection to mannerisms. Truly an amazing performance by the cast.
Marty Burnett’s set is a lovely tucked blue satin lined box with two white pearls as risers and table. A setting perfect for the play and the pearls that play in it. Chris Luessman created a sound track that enhanced to production. Michael Paolini’s lighting design worked well.
Michelle Hunt’s costumes defined the many characters precisely. The costumes no doubt added the actresses as the moved flawlessly from character to character. One can only imagine the logistic back stage for the innumerable changes.
String of Pearls is a must see for the performances alone. The enhancement of character defining wardrobes and an intriguing, albeit complex, script makes for an enjoyable evening at the theatre. Be sure to put this on your list.
Kwana Martinez, Jennifer Seifert, Crystal Sershen, Christy Yael
Set Design Marty Burnett, SM Aaron Rumley, Sound Design Chris Luessmann, Lighting Design Michael Paolini, Costume Design Michelle Hunt, Props & Set Dressing Bonnie Durben
Total Rating: Three Stars
Author: Michele Lowe
Director: Karen Carpenter
Date Reviewed: January 12, 2008
Dates Thursday thru Sunday, January 11 to February 10, 2008
Running Time: 107 minutes with no intermission
Caution Guidance Adult language
North Coast Repertory Theatre
987-D Lomas Santa Fe Drive
Solana Beach, California
Box Office Phone 858 481-1055.