Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Bo-Nita does not come into focus for much of the first hour, where it is quite meandering and sometimes hard to follow. Perhaps this was intentional. I found the wanderings of Bo-Nita's mind very true to the disorientation often seen in victims of childhood sexual abuse. At about the one-hour mark the play snaps sharply into focus with a scene between daughter and mother revealing the gritty realities of their lives. At this point the audience learns that Bo-Nita has strongly conflicting feelings toward her abuser; she feels the wrongness of the sexual contact, but relishes the close bond around many other activities. Her mother works multiple low paying jobs to keep the family afloat, leaving her little time to pay proper parental attention to her daughter, while her stepfather has the time. All of this is a horrifying honest look at this "family"'s relationships. I spent 15 years working in Child Protective Services and all of this rings very true to me.
Teri Weagant plays Bo-Nita, her mother, the stepfather who has sexually molested her, another of her mother's many men, and two other roles. Rarely have I seen a performance that so clearly defines so many major characters. The moment Ms. Weagant stepped onto the stage I knew she was somewhere around 12-14 without having read the program. The costume is clear, her movements are those of an early teen, and when she beings to speak a few minutes into the play the words are true to the character's age. Other especially strong characterizations are the stepfather who molested her and the mother, especially in the cathartic scene at the end. This is a brilliant performance being able to define six very different characters.
Director Kristin Franklin does a magnificent job; performances as vivid as Ms. Weagant's do not come from no where. Scenic design by Jeffrey Webber, costume design by Summer Dawn Wallace, and lighting by Ryan A Finzelber all contribute to the theatrical power of this production.
Bo-Nita is not a perfect play. It shows some of that pitfalls of one-person plays, but at the climactic moments and with a powerhouse performance by Teri Weagant it is powerful theater. Audience reaction has been so strong that the production has been extended one week, until May 7, 2017.
Urbanite Theatre presents Bo-Nita through May 7, 2017, at 1487 2nd St. Sarasota. Visit www.urbanitetheatre.com for more information.
Summer Dawn Wallace: Co Artistic Director, Costume & Props Design
With special thanks to Steve Csonka, Asolo Rep, Asolo Scenic Studio, Neil Herren & Lex Jet, Debye Bernard & Twice's Nice Furniture and Collectibles, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Whole Foods Market, T. Cole Finzelber, Jesseca Terhaar and Florida Rep, Bob and Pat Baer, Carol Camiener, Jo Franklin, Nicole Crowther, Patricia Delorey, Michelle Hart, Barbara Jacob, Adam Korothy, Gary LaParl