Sarasota's Asolo Rep stages one-woman comedy

mclear@bradenton.comJune 20, 2013 

"My Brilliant Divorce" has been a hit all over the world, but there's a good chance you've never heard of it.

For some reason, the United States is the one country where the Irish comedy remains obscure.

"We're thinking this is the production that will put it on the American radar," said Michael Donald Edwards, producing artistic director for the Asolo Repertory Theatre.

Edwards is directing Asolo Rep's staging of "My Brilliant Divorce." It's only the second production of the play in this country. It opens June 26.

It's a show that has one actor playing 18 roles, primarily Angela, a woman "of a certain age" (in Edward's words) who is suddenly dumped by her husband. The husband has been having an affair with a much younger woman. Angela struggles to survive, but ends up thriving, over the three-year time span of the play's action.

The play by Geraldine Aron premiered in Ireland in 2001, and came to a lot of people's attention with its 2003 cast in London's West End starring Dawn French. The previous American production, last year on Long Island, starred Polly Draper of the TV series "thirtysomething." Blythe Danner had also presented a reading of the play in 2009 in East Hampton, N.Y.

A friend sent Edwards the script, and he immediately fell in love with it. He knew he wanted to cast Mary Testa, a two-time Tony nominee who had appeared on the Asolo Rep stage in "Love, Loss and What I Wore."

"It calls for a brilliant comedian who's also an actor," Edwards said. "And I knew Mary would be perfect."

Testa wasn't familiar with the play, but she quickly became enthused.

"It's a wonderful play about a woman who deals with the heartbreak of a divorce," Testa said. "I read it once and I said 'I'd love to do it.'"

Edwards met with Aron, who tweaked the script to make the characters more American.

For the actor, Testa said, the challenge of the play is in its timing and the complexity of its characterizations. Playing 18 different people, in this case, isn't especially difficult.

"It's so well-written and so well-constructed that playing 18 characters is not a problem," Testa said. "It actually is exhilarating."

Details: June 26-July 14, Asolo Rep's Mertz Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. No 2 p.m. show June 26; No show July 4. Tickets: $42-73. Information: 941-351-8000, www.asolorep.org.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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