Monday, October 02, 2006

LILIA: Patrick Lonergan review

Patrick Lonergan writes and distributes an arts email he calls "Patrick's Picks," which deals mainly with theatre and classical music performances in the Vancouver area. (Hey, I oughta try something like that...) Here's what he wrote about LILIA...

LiLiA, on the other hand, was absolutely wonderful. The story of actress Lilia Skala as portrayed by her granddaughter, it is warm, loving, intense, funny, sad, and so human and deserves all the accolades it has received. Actress-playwright Libby Skala is brilliant and for her it is clearly a labour of love. Her ability to use her body and above all her facial features to transform herself from one character to another is phenomenal. In an instant her face changes from that of a young girl to that of her grandmother and then, just as quickly, back again. The scene in which grandmother gives granddaughter a lesson in acting was amazing, a truly dazzling tour-de-force as Skala changes characters back and forth with rapid-fire speed, revealing both Lilia Skala’s greatness as an actress (Libby Skala writes in her programme notes: “To this day she’s the greatest actress I’ve seen.”) and the great skill of Libby Skala herself. The play is superbly constructed with no scene ever outstaying its welcome. We are not simply given a chronological presentation but, rather, we jump back and forth through time, in short, pithy vignettes from Lilia’s life. We are, nonetheless, never lost, never confused. The play unfolds in bits and pieces which gradually come together as a more complete story. Lilia is presented to us warts and all. She was a strong and strong-willed woman with great courage and deep faith. But she could also be imperious, hard, and petty almost to the point of cruelty as, for example, when she covets her granddaughter’s sweater or criticises her looks. “Write a part for me”, her grandmother asks Libby. And she has. Libby Skala closes her programme notes with the following:

"As LiLiA moves forward I continue to plumb the depths of each nuance and life lesson to be gleaned from my grandmother’s experiences. Lilia often said: ‘I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of what’s inside me – what I can give of myself to mankind.’ She was constantly trying to teach and guide me, but I wasn’t always receptive. Well, it’s never too late.
The lessons continue as I have the privilege of performing this play – not only as a tribute to my grandmother, but as an ever-evolving experience between actor and audience.”

She has done her grandmother proud. Do see this.

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