Sarah Ruhl’s reduction of Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s gender-fluid time-travel novel of 1928, picks out key episodes and characters from the life of the titular 300-year-old would-be writer. Plucky Orlando (the adaptable Mary Myers) is ringed by a chorus of four, each of them playing an important personage in Orlando’s journey from inchoate man to established woman. Most remarkable among them is Alan Naylor’s comic turn as Queen Elizabeth (now QE II, of course), a screeching parrot in a red wig of a color unknown to both nature and the laboratory.
Ruhl’s text cleaves close to Woolf’s, so for instance we hear the memorable image “Birds froze in mid-air and fell like stones to the ground” of the Little Ice Age section. That strategy can sometimes work against the momentum of the play, as when the chorus is reduced to simple narration (albeit physicalized) of the transitions of Orlando’s world.
Costume designer Kitt Crescenzo has put all four chorus members (male and female) into modified farthingales, an effective choice, and Sasha’s furs are quietly sumptuous. Orlando’s womanly headgear of the 19th and 20th centuries was a bit unstable at Sunday’s performance.
- Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, adapted by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Nick Martin, Constellation Theatre Company, Washington