Saturday, July 23, 2011

REVIEW: 'Animals Out of Paper' at Banyan delivers with surprising folds

Barbara Sloan/Credit Gary Sweetman
Origami may drive the plot but it’s more a play about memory pain than folding paper.

Thick with metaphors and symbolism, Rajiv Joseph’s poignant romantic comedy “Animals Out of Paper,” which the Banyan Theater Company opened at the Cook Theatre in Sarasota on Thursday, manages to entertain while also exploring the limits of artistic healing and the merits of love. The show largely succeeds thanks to the intelligent, genre-busting script and the graceful acting mounted by director Jim Wise.

World-famous origami artist and author Ilana (Barbara Sloan) can’t bring herself to fold. After being left by her husband and three-legged dog, she has moved into her messy studio (nice work by set designer Jeffrey Dean). Ilana eats takeout and wastes away the days sprawled out on the sofa.

Enter high school math teacher and aspiring origami artist Andy (Christopher Swan). He has a crush on Ilana the size of the enormous origami hawk hanging above her sofa. Andy talks Ilana into tutoring his star student Suresh (Luke Bartholomew), an 18-year-old senior who excels at origami. The pupil also has a penchant for hip-hop, rapper wannabe attire (props to costume designer Dee Richards) and urban lingo, often of the misogynistic bent.

Ilana prefers good, old-fashioned F-bombs.

Andy and Ilana date but the relationship appears doomed from the start. He’s a goofball. And his positive platitudes do Ilana, or the audience, little good.

Christopher Swan, Barbara Sloan and Luke Bartholomew/Credit Gary Sweetman

Suresh offers numerous surprises. Not all are completely believable but still manage to reward. Of all the characters, he’s the only one who walks away from play better off than when it began.

Ilana, easily the most interesting and perplexing character on stage, benefits greatly from Sloan’s superb performance. She’s the one who must sell lines about paper having no memory and how “folds leave scars.”

“Animals Out of Paper” doesn’t offer a neatly folded ending. But it provides a humorous, tender look at the fickle nature of life and love. It’s the familiar given a fresh treatment.


Read "Banyan brings acclaimed ‘Animals’ to stage."

Banyan Theater Company.

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