ReviewStage

The Builders Association Brings Sontag’s Notebooks to Life in the ArtsEmerson Production of "Sontag: Reborn"

Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Moe Angelos in Sontag: Reborn. Photo Credit: James Gibbs.
Moe Angelos in Sontag: Reborn. Photo Credit: James Gibbs.

It is said that one never truly dies if their spirit lives on in the minds of others and the legacy he or she leaves behind. Acclaimed writer and intellectual Susan Sontag, who died not long ago, left a legacy in the multitude of essays and fiction writing she left behind, but also in the journals she kept throughout her growth as a writer and as a person. Sontag had a fruitful and collaborative relationship with The Builders Association Theatre Company in the past, and they were the perfect company to bring her story back to life through the innovative storytelling method of video, music, and the breathtaking one-woman performance of Moe Angelos as a young Sontag.

Sontag: Reborn incorporates incredible footage of Sontag herself looking back on her own journals and commenting on them, as she “interacts” with Angelos, playing Sontag throughout the years. Sontag, in her video, comments, “in these journals, I am reborn,” which epitomizes the feeling of the show. Angelos plays Sontag at the age she writes her journal entries, growing from an ambitious intellectual sixteen-year-old with a voracious hunger for knowledge to a woman with a somewhat jaded but much-broadened worldview.

Moe Angelos in Sontag: Reborn. Photo Credit: James Gibbs.
Moe Angelos in Sontag: Reborn. Photo Credit: James Gibbs.

Merely by sitting at a desk, Angelos creates the world of Sontag around her through her powerful and compelling delivery. Her performance, coupled with amazing projections, takes the audience with Sontag from the San Francisco bar scene to the University of Chicago, from Oxford University to Paris, from the depths of New York City to vacations in Greece, all through Sontag’s journals, which provide so much insight into the great mind that created them.

The truth about Sontag’s thoughts about herself is the most beautiful part of this production. Despite her prolific work and intellectual prowess, Sontag reveals herself to be just as confused and curious about life as we all are. What makes her work and the show so compelling is her lack of fear in articulating these thoughts – about marriage, sexuality, talent, and other large questions of life. Although these thoughts come from her private diary, she even acknowledges that diaries are meant to be read by “parents or lovers,” not really totally private in the first place. And the audience who gets to see this innovative look inside this diary is truly lucky.

Sontag: Reborn runs until May 18 on the Paramount Center Mainstage at Emerson College.

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