Bright Half Life, a sixty-five minute chronicle of a deeply committed lesbian relationship, is contemporary as a play could be but the theme is classic and timeless. Legal gay marriage has occupied merely a nanosecond of our existence, but the presentation of the highs and lows of coupledom, as exampled in this piece, defy the ages.
Ms. Barfield's play is nonlinear but modular -- all the pieces fit -- one just has to pay attention. Once the brain acclimates itself to the rapid-fire sparring, it appears as if the work could not have been written otherwise.
The two-woman piece, as played by Rebecca Henderson (Erica) and Rachael Holmes, (Vicky) chronicles their relationship (from meeting cute at work), culminating with the final progression of their lives and times.
In a seemingly deliberate bit of casting, Erica, is about as white as a girl could be, as referenced to by the African-American Vicky. But Vicky is no "soul sister." She is a buttoned-up executive, more cautious in matters regarding the women's relationship but she is ironically open to physical adventure, such as sky-diving, and gleefully riding on a Ferris-wheel. Erica, initially dauntless, is terrified. She is the more androgynous, artsy type, and pursues the relationship with a seemly sly domination but might not be the stable one, after all.
Rebecca Henderson and Rachael Holmes both deliver deft, strong performances, which fill out the characters, as offered to them by the playwright. Rachel Homes is particularly alluring, which makes her ultimate position in the story appear a bit puzzling. But not really, being that relationships rarely make intellectual sense.
The bare, yet clever, two bench scenery (as designed by Rachel Hauck) served the play admirably, for it managed to create the true feel of an office space--to a dangling Ferris-wheel. The lighting (Jennifer Schriever) was bright-- yet without glare. Director (Leigh Silverman) started the proceedings at a lightening pace, which softened as the evening progressed.
Although touching upon on sexuality and race, Bright Half Life does not have time to dwell on the polemic. At its completion, this small, yet powerful, slice of life, leaves one breathless and a bit melancholic. It took me a while to shake it off. But I guess that was the point.
The lower level theatre, at NYC's remodeled "City Center," was extremely comfortable -- and audience-friendly -- a rare luxury in Manhattan's cramped theatres.
Bright Half Life continues its run until March 22nd at the City Center.