Dallas — The women of Dallas’ Echo Theatre bring a fun and thoughtful hour of storytelling to the Festival of Independent Theatres at the Bath House Cultural Center with its revival of Bible Women, a song cycle by Elizabeth Swados with added text written by Vicki Caroline Cheatwood.
In an upbeat, contemporary style, and with simple accompaniment on piano and percussion, the five-voice vocal ensemble retells the riveting, though largely obscure, stories of several women from the Old Testament of the Bible. Through the lives and tales of characters like Esther, Sarah, Lilith, and Eve, audience members are presented with some of the major , socially relevant themes of womanhood—love, duty, sacrifice, motherhood, equality, and community leadership.
Players Annie Benjamin, Alejandra Bigio, Terri Ferguson, Denise Lee, and Lorens Portalatin make up the company under the direction of Stephanie Butler. Ranging in style, tone, and experience, each woman brings a unique perspective to the story, weaving in and out of leading and backing roles to culminate in an effective group.
Vocally, the ensemble is strong and capable. Returning from Echo’s 2010 production are Ferguson, Lee and Benjamin. Lee’s rich, soulful lows mix excellently with middles and highs of the rest of the group, creating thick, expressive harmonies that move from sweet and melodic to resonant and robust. Benjamin also adds to the production with lively, lilting flute playing on various numbers, which gave the show a bright, folksy air.
The standout number for this viewer is the story of Lilith, performed by Lorens Portalatin and company. The piece is heartbreaking and wrenching in its interpretation of a woman whose story is traditionally not included in the biblical canon. The mythology, as portrayed by the cast, paints a picture of the world’s first feminist, who refused to assume a subservient role to Adam, the first man, and was therefore punished by God to endure “the death of 100 of her children every day.” Portalatin does an excellent job in capturing the desperation and anger in this character with a voice that is full, dramatic, and sensitive.
The hourlong show is not only entertaining, but also culturally informative. Making her DFW directing debut, Butler does well to provide a simple, but sophisticated, addition to the FIT lineup—one that serves effortlessly to contribute to the current social commentary on women’s gender norms, expectations, and the #MeToo movement.
Bible Women continues in the following performance blocks:
- 2pm Saturday, July 28
- 2pm Sunday, July 29
- 8pm Saturday, Aug. 4
The 20th Festival of Independent Theatres
July 13- August 4, 2018
Bath House Cultural Center,
521 E. Lawther Drive, Dallas
Tickets and passes go on sale in late June
Call 800-617-6904 or visit www.festivalofindependenttheatres.org