Net Worth – Can’t Take it With You
A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS
Well, hello, Strand! We are so fucking glad you’re back! And we are especially glad to see you weathering this particular climate: The Strand is celebrating their ninth season in Baltimore and has just found a new permanent home in Hamilton and we couldn’t be more pleased. The stage has always had an artistic mission to give voice to women in the arts. And so, there could be no more appropriate come back kid than this, Bari Hochwald’s one woman show Net Worth.
Entering, you are treated a podium and slide show welcoming you to a conference on “Net Worth” at the Ohio Lion’s Club. Hochwald comes forward and begins her practiced speech for us, or rather, those attending a financial workshop. At this point, there was some unease, no one was sure where this was going. Then the lights, thanks to Lana Riggins and Maya Wildberger, shift, cluing us in that things are about to take a more intimate turn. The lighting is key to understanding the play, and the projections and art by Gerry Hochwald reflect the turmoil and confusion of Hochwald’s journey (she’s a struggling artist, like many of us, single, also like many of us, and with huge amounts of student debt which, let’s not even go there). The rub is that, despite these things, she’s happy, something no one in her life can even come close to understanding. Why aren’t you married, they ask? But what about that 9 to 5? Security, they say. Freedom, she answers. It’s a lifelong tug of war for most of us, and it sure doesn’t get any easier.
Hochwald switches from an infomercial-styled lecturer to a woman grasping at straws. The piece ebbs and flows from full-on crying mental breakdown to perky salesperson so seamlessly that it’s almost miraculous. She’s flawless in her ability to make us believe in multiple characterizations (without straying into dissociative identity disorder, a trap one-person shows are prone to) playing everyone from her mother, father, friend, lover, random Romeo, and doing it well. She embodies each clearly, without confusion. It has to be difficult, but Hochwald makes it look easy. The one point I thought ventured a bit into uncanny was the portion where she plays her baby nephew. The baby tries to talk but can’t get out the words; most newborns aren’t quite that articulate or intelligent. A little weird.
Strand’s new digs are lovely, BTW, with red theater seats on a staggered platform, and a large blank slate of white walls just crying out to be used. The exterior is still a white stone façade with Providence Bank carved high above. Elena Kostakis, Executive Director, was even kind enough to give me a tour of the new facility complete with working bank vault in the basement, and autograph wall in the lobby.
BOTTOM LINE: Net Worth is an engaging, challenging, exploratory piece that really puts to you the question: what, exactly, is art is worth? Bari Hochwald is a phenomenal actress who makes one woman feel like a cast of thousands. This is strong opener to what is hopefully a new chapter for The Strand. Support it.
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