By Douglas Hardman
Mixing pop operatic music with a tantalizing love story, bare exposes audiences to a vulnerable and raw emotion
The Peninsula Community Theatre (PCT) in Newport News debuted its fifth show of the season on Feb. 20, 2015. It revolves, mainly, around two seniors, Jason and Peter, whose love is teetering on the edge: Peter’s ready to take the chance and expose their love, while Jason thinks their secret is “Best Kept Secret.” Amidst the drama is a set of societal, teenage “taboos” that many millennial teenagers are facing today, bringing a realistic viewpoint rarely seen on the musical stage.
With little dialogue, “bare” stands tall with its real and heartstring-pulling lyrics. It likes to mix it up, with crowd favorites like “Birthday Bitch,” “Wonderland” (a rap amongst mainly pop opera songs), and “Plain Jane Fat Ass” that leave the audience in stitches.
While the musical has its moments of comedy (Sister Chantelle is the comedic backbone throughout), you are never taken away from the real tragedies taking place. From a misunderstood “school slut” painted with clichés (“Portrait of a Girl”) to a deeply closeted Jason only seeking guidance and acceptance (“Once Upon a Time”/“Cross”) to a teenage pregnancy gone wrong (“All Grown Up”), the play takes the audience into the world and struggles of teenagers in high school who are looking to be understood, not just heard. And even more impressive: not one issue in the play is presented as more severe than the others. No one’s problem is bigger than another’s.
Featuring George Revill as Jason, Marshall Robey as Peter, Jennifer Thomas as Nadia, Gabrielle Jurscaga as Ivy, Avery Malerich as Matt, and Charity Robinson as Sister Chantelle, “bare” exposes wonderful talent and a magnificently diverse cast who bare their own hearts on the stage, making this performance truly breathtaking and emotional.
Peter is our protagonist, as he struggles to deal with a neglectful Jason (“Role of a Lifetime”), consistently asking God, “Are You There” in his time of crisis and need for guidance, and contemplating the right time to tell his mother the truth (“See Me”).
Peter is brought to life by former VWC student Marshall Robey. Robey attended VWC in 2011 and 2012 and was part of the Wesleyan Singers as well as two theatre productions: “The Assemblywomen” and “Pump Boys and Dinettes.”
After deciding that VWC was not the right school for him, Robey continued to pursue theatre locally. “Since I was already a part of community theatre, there was ease in transitioning out of college theatre and continuing community, though my time at Wesleyan did bring me valued experience that I bring to the theatre,” said Robey.
While no stranger to the theatre world, “bare” is Robey’s PCT debut in, what he says, is his most emotional role to date. “When it comes to characters, Peter is the first one that is really deep and emotional,” he said. “It’s been such an adventure to explore this character because I was able to explore who I was as a person and draw from real-life experience in order to get that raw emotion and vulnerability on the stage.” And this was proven true as Robey’s performance captivated and moved the audience, some even to tears. Live theatre is all about providing either escape or insight. Whatever you seek going into theatre, you should take away something from it.
“Theatre is a universal language that can reach multitudes of people and communicate in ways that no other medium really can. There’s a certain appeal to live acting. It presents a very raw emotion,” Robey said, concerning the idea that all people should experience theatre at least once. With no exception, “bare” is a show that simply cannot be missed. It’s realistic and heartbreaking, presenting real-world issues faced by the generation of broken children. If you’ve ever felt lost, alone, scared, confused or without a voice, “bare” provides you with your own story.
In the words of Sister Chantelle, “If you hide from yourself, be someone else for someone else’s sake, that would be the greatest mistake.” Directed by Jeff Corriveau, PCT’s production of “bare” continues for just two more weekends. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. (Feb. 27 & 28 and March 1, 6, 7, & 8). Visit pctlive.org for ticket information (student discounts available).