ReviewStage

“The Wholehearted” is a One-Two Punch

Christopher Falcioni ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

Suli Holum in The Wholehearted. Photo Credit: Leah Schrager/ArtsEmerson.
Suli Holum in The Wholehearted. Photo Credit: Leah Schrager/ArtsEmerson.

Sitting around the perimeter of the in-the-round stage of “Stein | Holum Projects”’ new production The Wholehearted, one might feel intimidated by the audience members sitting right across from them. The seating arrangement exposes you to everybody else, all of whom are staring back at you in this boxing ring of a stage. This is just a subtle clue of the violent and fast-paced one-woman production. Suli Holum and Deborah Stein have created a deeply human show, perfect for the Jackie Liebergott Black Box in the Emerson/Paramount Center.

The story centers on a fictitious female boxer named Dee Crosby whom fame has not been kind to. Portrayed in an intoxicating performance by Suli Holum, Dee Crosby recounts the story of her painful rise and frightening descent using a handheld camera as her medium of expression. A film crew soon cuts in on the action, as they film Dee and the audience watches her appear on television screens above, giving a glamorized perspective on her life.

Holum masters Crosby in the big and small moments. The fight choreography is amazing; she masters the role with pizzazz and intensity, but the audience is close enough to see the glints in her eyes and the pain on her raw face as she moves the handheld camera towards her. She sings, she seduces, and she fights – and then the audience can see her quickly turn into another character at the drop of a hat. This has much to do with Deborah Stein’s intelligent scriptwriting, which offers hills and valleys of emotion, not only giving Holum time to rest, but also creating a mystery, drawing her viewers into the world of the play. Only at the ending is the full impact of Dee’s life realized; what it truly is like to be a “wholehearted” fighter.

Suli Holum in The Wholehearted. Photo Credit: Leah Schrager/ArtsEmerson.
Suli Holum in The Wholehearted. Photo Credit: Leah Schrager/ArtsEmerson.

Much credit, though, must go to the video designers Kate Freer and David Tennant, with assistance from Stevo Arnoczy, who smash the world of gritty fighting and glamorized storytelling together in their insanely gorgeous video design. The dichotomy between screen and stage is incredible as Dee fights under the pressure of the punches that she takes – from the media, from those close to her, and from her opponents. She fights for her life in the ring and out. The fascinating split-second, quick editing and wonderful illusions give a completely different perspective into Dee’s mind on the screens. The inner struggles, the glamour, and the truth of her fighting life merge into one in her final act. Because the last round of the match is the most interesting battle that she fights – it is the fight with herself, and it is the match of the century.

Performances take place Apr. 17‐‐27, 2014 at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box in the Emerson/Paramount Center (559 Washington Street in Boston’s Theatre District). Tickets, from $25 –$49, are on sale now at www.artsemerson.org or by phone at 617‐824‐8400.

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