Friday, January 25, 2008

Juliet: A Dialogue about Love

Just heard from Melissa Hawkins that she’s doing her beautiful one-woman play, Juliet, at 6 p.m. Feb. 10 at Christ Church in Glen Ellyn, a suburb of Chicago. The address is 625 Hillside Ave. DONATIONS ONLY. Talk-back session after the show. For information, call (708) 209-0183.

Here’s the review I wrote after seeing it last summer at the Fringe Festival.

Melissa Hawkins’s performance in the involving story of one woman’s faith, courage and love should not be missed. For 90 minutes, alone on a nearly bare stage, she brings to life the story of Juliet Visky who spent five years in a prison camp in the Danube delta following the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Her crime? Being the wife of a Hungarian Reformed pastor in what had become a Communist country. He was arrested and sentenced to 22 years in prison. She and their seven children were deported to a Romanian gulag 1,000 kilometers from their home.

This play was written by her seventh son, Andras, in one week of 18-hour days after a year of writer’s block. He then never changed a word. A program note describes it this way: “The play is an aggressive confrontation with an inactive God. The conversation follows her stream of consciousness, piling together the mosaic of her life to solve her current abandonment.”

Because of Hawkins’s powerful acting, I had no trouble following the play, in spite of its leaps in time. Her giftedness brings to life not only Juliet but her children, husband, the jailers and events of her life before imprisonment. She creates a Juliet who has a sense of humor -- when she sees her new lodging has no roof, she dryly comments that they have no need of a skylight -- a Juliet who talks and prays to God lovingly and who can also be angry with God.

Scenic designer Terrence McClellan enforces the gloom of Juliet’s plight with his nearly empty stage and lighting designers Ryan Breneisen and Andrew Dunning enhance the mood with their shadings of light and dark.

The only thing I would suggest changing would be to cut the work to 75 minutes. Tightening it would strengthen the tension. It is remarkable, though, that Hawkins could sustain such intensity for the full, uninterrupted 90 minutes. She never once slipped from her character or that world.

Only two more performances remain of “Juliet” in its current run at the New York International Fringe Festival. For information of these and on booking a performance, visit

1 comment:

CFAAnn said...

For those who have missed Hawkins in past "juliet" productions...or want to see it again, they have the opportunity Sept. 10-Oct. 3 when Theatre Y presents a new staging by Karin Coonrod at the Royal George Theatre Center in Chicago. For more info visit