“Bright Half Life” and “The Events” bring major lesbian characters to Off-Broadway

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While Fun Home is poised to be a huge game changer in the Broadway arena, there are currently two dynamic productions running Off Broadway that not only feature lesbian characters, but place them front and center. Vastly different, the shows do have a few things in common: Both have excellent performers, thought-provoking scripts, and reasonable ticket prices. So, instead of spending $250 a pop for tickets to a Broadway show, why not consider checking out these two stellar works?

Rebecca Henderson and Rachael Holmes in BRIGHT HALF LIFE 2Rebecca Henderson and Rachel Holmes in “Bright Half Life”

Bright Half Life, written by Tanya Barfield and directed by Leigh Silverman, follows the 23-year relationship between Erica (Rebecca Henderson of Appropriate Behavior) and Vicky (Rachael Holmes). The show jumps around in time, showing us the couple falling in love and calling it quits, as well as the bonds that strengthen them and when the cracks begin to appear in their commitment.

At a running time of an hour, this non-linear format successfully works to show you snippets of their many years together, without feeling formulaic. It can be a bit disorienting at first, but once you get a sense of the characters, everything else falls into place. Henderson and Holmes have great chemistry and are impressive at reading one another in the often breakneck scenes. Henderson’s Erica questions everything, needling Vicky in often funny, sometimes frustrating ways. Holmes’ Vicky is calm and confident, the perfect counterpart to the endlessly processing Erica. It’s a rare thing to see a lesbian relationship played out in such way on stage, and with the shows pacing and tight direction, Bright Half Life flies by in the blink of an eye. The play is also produced by the Women’s Project Theatre, which is dedicated to promoting the work of women in the arts.


Clifford Samuel and Neve McIntosh

The Events is a fictional account of the very real and tragic mass shooting that happened in Norway in 2011. Neve McIntosh, who plays Madame Vastra on Dr. Who and appeared as Laura in Lip Service, stars as Claire, a lesbian minister who is haunted by the event. McIntosh is joined by Clifford Samuel, who takes on 12 roles, including the shooter himself.

Each performance of The Events features of different community choir, serving as a Greek chorus of sorts. Claire is leading a choir rehearsal when the shootings happen, and as time passes she becomes more and more consumed with finding out the reasons why the shooter did what he did. Her PTSD creeps into all elements of her life including her relationship with her wife, and the surviving members of the choir. McIntosh is a powerhouse in the show, who is deft at portraying Claire’s desperation to both lead and be saved. Samuel is a perfect partner, exuding a quiet grace as well as intimidating ferocity, depending on the character he is portraying at the time.

Theatre has an intimacy that other storytelling mediums simply do not, and seeing queer characters live and in the flesh can be a truly incredible experience. Also, if patrons do not come out and show support for queer characters and plays, then there will be less of them enjoy. So, take yourself to one or both of these plays and be a part of the future of independent theatre.

Bright Half Life runs until March 22nd at the New York City Center. The Events runs until March 22nd at The New York Theatre Workshop.

 

 

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