By Audrey Cefaly | Directed by Whitney Latrice Coulter
Review by Doug Sturdivant ~
Here are my thoughts on Maytag Virgin or escaping the Horse latitudes.
Theatre Three delivers an early valentine with Maytag Virgin. If you are expecting that hearts and flowers type of valentine or even a “Sleepless in Seattle” type, you are going to be disappointed. Maytag Virgin depicts love with no artificiality and overly contrived situations and does not blossom overnight.
One of the aspects that I admired most about Maytag Virgin was the pacing. Director Coulter never rushes the story or her actors and lets the story unfold gently, reminding us of how true love grows.
And if ever there was an unlikely pair for true love, it is Lizzy (Tiffany Solano) and Jack (Ian Ferguson). She is a staunch Southern-style protestant, and he is a Catholic who keeps a statue of the Virgin Mary in his yard.
Her yard and porch have large colorful flowers, a giant gawdy salamander, a bottle tree, and baby elephants. Jack has only the Virgin Mary statue and a Maytag dryer on the porch, which Lizzie finds just about as offensive as the statue.
However, even though they appear outwardly different, Lizzy and Jack share much common ground. They are both schoolteachers, both Southerners, both have lost spouses tragically, and both are suffering from self-imposed loneliness that has built an invisible wall around them. Lizzy has a secret that is slowly eating her alive.
The story has beautiful moments that unfold on Jeffrey Schmidt’s simple yet effective set enhanced by Will Elphingstone’s lighting, allowing the neighbors to become involved in each other’s lives easier.
Costume designer Raven Lanuza-Brown keeps the lively Lizzy in a host of colorful costumes and Jack in mostly muted tones.
There is a sensuality about this Lizzy and Jack saga. Food is almost always part of the conversations, and they even indulge in a bit of moonshine drinking. Lizzy stands outside in a thunderstorm in one particularly moving scene hoping that the drenching rain will wash away her guilt. Tiffany Solano performs such depth here that it is challenging to keep your emotions in check. Her cheerful enthusiasm and busybody demeanor in the first act reveal a tortured soul in the second act, and her every word rings true.
Ian Ferguson’s Jack is the perfect foil for Lizzy. His measured, calm delivery contrasts beautifully with Solano’s effusiveness. Ferguson is an actor of quiet brilliance and authenticity to Jack that grounds this production.
Maytag Virgin is all about escaping from the Horse latitudes. As Jack explains to Lizzy, the Horse latitudes are a place in the ocean where there are no winds, and in earlier days, ships sometimes found themselves stuck there for months with dreadful consequences. In many ways, Lizzy and Jack are stuck in the doldrums. The question in this exquisitely directed and produced play is, will “love” be able to pull them out?
Where: Bryant Hall, Kalita Humphreys Theater | 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., Dallas
When: Now Through Sunday, February 20