LELA & CO – Review By Gadi Elkon

Second Thought Theatre’s latest production is one of the most emotionally explosives pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.  Cordelia Lynn’s work is an amazingly thoughtful and insightful look into a subject that effects people all over the world.

Lela and Co. runs though April 27th at Bryant Hall and is not only must see it may well be a life altering experience you’ll always cherish.

Natalie Young and Garrett Storms tackle the 90 minutes of Lynn’s work with so much subtle transformation you are left wondering if there is anything they can’t emote on stage.  Under the direction of Kara-Lynn Vaeni the production lays everything out right before your eyes.  A set of wooden blocks showcasing the hills of an unknown landscape and childlike starry sky hang from above.  The audience is on the one side and so the actors are mostly facing you throughout.  Nick Francone’s (Scenic Designer) landscape takes more unique meaning as Natalie’s Lela becomes more isolated and less free to roam.

Eyes being the important element in this production.  Both actors speak directly to the audience of Lela’s growth from young child to woman and the tremendous strength she has throughout.  Lynn’s words though are a mixture of cutesy humor that slowly starts to become secretive and damning as you fully realize just what is going on in Lela’s world.  The one constant is Natalie and Garrett never stop looking into the eyes of the audience.  They traverse over the crowd making sure everyone is fully immersed into Lela’s life.  As the stakes of reality start to strip away the innocence of youth we are all left seeing what true horror can be. In the post play discussion a few of us audience members used the word culpable.  Not that we had inflicting anything to Lela, but rather that we had been witness to something so horrific.  This production impacted us so much we had to look into our own choices to decide what would we have done.  The real power of Lynn’s broad world is that each individual audience member will have their own level of understanding and rationalization.  The work merely tells the life of a one Lela, but it’s obvious this play stand up for all people who suffer the injustices of the reality in the play.  Remarkable is another word that was repeated in the post play discussion.

I’ll share the synopsis but only to give a little insight, the truth of this wonderful work has to be seen up close.

Lela is thirteen when her father accuses her of stealing a piece of cake hidden in the kitchen. She is fifteen when her husband steals her passport and hides it in his kitchen, hundreds of miles away. Separated from her childhood by the soldiers at the border of her country and the soldiers in the bedroom of her new home, Lela gains strength and wisdom that are hard-won and far beyond her years. Based on true stories from conflict zones all over the world, Lela & Co traces a precarious path from girlhood to womanhood and celebrates the resilience of those who make the journey.

The play doesn’t allow a specific location to be deciphered or honestly a particular Lela.  The girl, who’s life unfolds before you, is a mixture of your own imagination and knowledge.  As the young child is slowly replaced by the trapped wife and mother you are forced to come to terms with your knowledge of the subject matter.  Lynn doesn’t sugar coat or even really give a moment of realization instead the play allows the audience to figure it out at their own pace.  There are subtle hints along the way that the world before us is not a fairy tale at all.  In the end though the real magic is how quickly your own personal emotions are fully tapped by this work.  As Natalie’s character becomes more vivid the more you come to see just what horror is unfolding.

I felt so much pain in witnessing an actor just explain her life.  There is nothing shocking or gratuitous in this production.  Rather everything that unfolds is something you have to imagine and realize.  But when you do come to fully acknowledgment of what Lynn’s play is about you’ll fully be able to connect with Lela.

I’ll say it again, this is not just a must see but this play can life altering.  Be bold and go see this amazing production.

Monday 04/22/2019 at 7:30p | Pay What You Can

Thursday 04/25/2019 at 7:30p
Friday 04/26/2019 at 8:00p
Saturday 04/27/2019 at 8:00p | Closing Night