Theater & dance

Stages

Company One’s ‘Really’ transforms a South End gallery into a stage

Actors Alex Portenko (left) and Kippy Goldfarb with director Shawn LaCount during a rehearsal for “Really.”

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Actors Alex Portenko (left) and Kippy Goldfarb with director Shawn LaCount during a rehearsal for “Really.”

In the poignant drama “Really,” all of the action takes place in a studio, where a younger woman is photographing an older woman.

“It’s about what happens to memory and meaning when you freeze reality into two dimensions,” says Ian Marcus Corbin, whose Matter & Light Fine Art gallery in the South End is hosting the Company One Theatre production that runs Jan. 25-Feb. 12. “That’s always been an interesting question for me with regard to painting and photography.”

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Company One has transformed Matter & Light into an intimate theatrical space, adding risers to accommodate audiences of up to 45 people, while leaving space for Corbin’s complementary exhibit of portraiture and human figure photography. The nearby Gallery Kayafas will serve as lobby and bar before the show.

“I’m really excited about creating opportunities for music and theater to share this space,” says Corbin. “Since we opened last spring, we have already been hosting Chimera New Music Collective, which promotes contemporary music performances. ‘Really’ is another opportunity for collaboration.”

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Director Shawn LaCount says he is grateful for the generosity of both Matter & Light and Kayafas in making the production work.

“We weren’t just looking for an alternative performance space,” LaCount says. “We wanted a partnership. As part of Company One’s community engagement component, we are working with 10 local photographers, whose work the audience will have the opportunity to look through at the end of the performance, in addition to Matter & Light’s exhibit on the walls. I hope the audience will be drawn in by these characters and their story, as well as the stories these other photos might tell.”

Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury says she was thinking the play might function “as a caption for the photos. Even documentary-style photos are subject to interpretation,” she says. “Photos seen in a different context will have a different meaning, and sometimes we impose meaning to help deal with guilt or regret.”

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LaCount says he’s been talking to Drury about the play since Company One produced her “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation. . . ” in 2014. “I love the way ‘Really’ combines memory, humanity, mystery, and longing,” he says. “The play is just 75 minutes long, and yet within that space there are pauses and silences that allow the actors to breathe and the audience to feel.”

While the action of the play is very simple, LaCount says Drury plays with time, space, and metaphor.

“The characters move from a visceral memory to a photo, that moment when you can no longer remember what a person smells like, or what their voice sounded like,” he says. “For me, directing the actors, those moments mark the difference between when a character exits a scene versus when they disappear.”

Kippy Goldfarb, who plays Mother, is also a professional photographer and says it’s been an adventure being the subject rather than the person behind the camera.

“The script includes all these little details about posing someone, while also trying to make it look natural,” Goldfarb says. “There’s a lot going on in this play that’s subtle and mysterious.”

Drury says she allowed for some flexibility in the ending of the play, but she’s looking forward to seeing LaCount’s staging.

“I love the notion of the audience breaking into the playing space at the end to create their own drama,” says Drury. “I can’t wait to see what happens.”

Role change in ‘The Atheist’

A decade after the premiere of “The Atheist,” playwright Ronan Noone is returning to his dark comedy of a journalist who sells his soul for celebrity. The Boston Playwrights’ Theatre revival (through Feb. 7) has one key difference: The journalist, previously played by a man, will be performed by award-winning actress Georgia Lyman.

“Watching the presidential campaign,” says Noone, “I was struck by the way Hillary Clinton was criticized for exhibiting the traits of a man, and I wondered what those were: intelligence, patience, malignancy, manipulation?” he says. “I also think the conversation about the role of the media in politics right now also makes it a good time to revive this play.”

Working as the director of his own play, Noone says, has allowed him to look at the script in a different way, although he says he’s made few changes.

“Georgia is fierce,” he says. “She’s not afraid to push into sensitivities and doesn’t worry that [the main character] Augustine is not politically correct. She is shaping the play in slightly different ways.”

At Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, through Feb. 5. Tickets $10-$30. 866-811-4111, www.bu.edu/bpt

REALLY

Presented by Company One Theatre, Jan. 25-Feb. 12. At Matter & Light Fine Art, 63 Thayer St., Boston. Tickets $25-$42, 617-292-7110, www.companyone.org

Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrne@aol.com.
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