Friday, March 29, 2019

REVIEW: 9 in the Morning by Jacob Henry

Alex Webster as WOMAN. Photo by Bill West-Davis
by Shane Strawbridge

We all talk to the voices in our heads. We have conversations with ourselves, we rehearse that speech we just know we are going to have with that co-worker who has it coming, and we replay the moments that haunt us time after time. In 9 in the Morning, playwright and designer Jacob Henry has taken that concept and magnified it into a trippy twenty-minute journey through one woman’s psyche.

9 in the Morning follows a character we know only as “Woman” who wakes in bed, presumably hungover, and is unsure of exactly what happened the night before. On first glance, this story is tired, played out, and unworthy of your attention. What makes this production different—and worth spending the time to see—is the utilization of bone-conduction technology which allows the audience to hear both the words from the mouth of Woman and the voices inside her own head.

As “Woman,” Alex Webster is appropriately bewildered, although she never goes so far as to be melodramatic or over-the-top in her portrayal. There is a balance between what we hear in our heads as her inner thoughts and what we hear with our ears as she speaks aloud that is intriguing and disorienting. Although they are never seen, Jacob Henry as David and Christina Proper as Sonya provide grounded characters through sound, whether that be in the Woman’s head or over the phone.

Lighting design by Bill West-Davis lends a subtle touch that adds to the illusory feel of the proceedings. The costume design and set dressing by Emilia Richardson and Alex Webster is functional and straightforward, with impish details such as a yoga mat that implores you to “Keep Going” as you enter the space. But in a show that relies so heavily on sound, it is appropriate that the real star of the show is the sound design by Jacob Henry which bounces from bone-conduction voices in the head to vibrations of the skull to the ambient sounds in the room and back again. In the hands of someone less skilled, it would be a jumbled mess, but with Henry, you feel that you are never too far gone from the path.

While you may leave the performance with more questions than answers about what exactly has happened to the Woman, ultimately it doesn’t matter. The experience is the thing; Henry and company have created something that sticks with you long after you leave the dark recesses of the theatre.

If you want to see it, you had better hurry; it only runs through this weekend (March 31) with performances starting every twenty minutes (Alex Webster is marathon performing in six-hour blocks each day). For more info, click HERE.

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