‘Frida’ lives through New Works play by KC Rep

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KC Rep

Step into the character of famous painter Frida Kahlo as Vanessa Severo examines the famous artist’s life and take the audience inside Kahlo’s life as she explores the drive and determination that created Mexico’s famous painter.

Severo, explains in a curtain speech how and why she discovered Kahlo and her immediate attraction to uncover more and more about the celebrity. Severo steps onto the stage, reads the line that pulled her into Kahlo’s life and then wears the character of the artist like a second skin. As Kahlo, Severo explains the trials, tribulation, pain, suffering, and triumphant spirit that make Frida a legend.

Brilliant staging and reciting of her experience allows Severo to just become Frida in the different stages of her life, displaying the struggles Kahlo overcame. Frida suffered from Polio as a child. She became dependent on strong pain-killing drugs in her life. She was involved in a trolley accident that broke and crushed many bones. She suffered miscarriages as a result of a crushed pelvis. She lived through a marriage to a man who bedded her own sister. She explored and expanded her own sexuality. She learned to paint “Truth.” And, it was the “Truth” that Frida wanted to convey through her art.

From opening lines through final bows, the audience embraces Severo and Kahlo as one. The union between artist and subject melt into one persona. The research, writing, delivery, staging of the production scream of success. The use of the costumes, the effect of Severo being both a man and the artist in several scenes represents phenomenal staging. The WOW effect is the only way to describe what the audience sees.

Even though the show is a one-woman show, the audience gets the feeling that others share the stage with Severo, specifically in the scenes where she is conversing with Diego Rivera. The audience sees two people but only one performs this piece. Movement and pacing are key components in the story, and those aspects are mastered by the performer. Lighting is another key element in this piece as it helps direct the audience to specific spots and moods within the play.

“Frida,” both written and performed by Severo absolutely, positively grabs the audience attention from the first lines and holds them in a tight grasp throughout the one-act play. Severo’s understanding of the piece means that the delivery, inflections, expressions are all uniquely Severo’s creation. She knows the character, researched the character, performs the character. She is Kahlo.

After the opening night performance, director Joanie Schultz addressed the well-wishers at the opening night reception and gave huge and abundant accolades to the production crew. Schultz told attendees what a joy she encountered while working with the KC Rep staff and production team.

After Schultz’ words, Severo spoke and bestowed a humble thank you to the different venues, directors, actors, and producing artistic directors who help her establish her presence as a fixture among Kansas City’s vast talent pool. Severo’s script speaks to her creativity and deployment of her talent. “Frida” is Severo’s work; she understands the person, the character, and delivers a blockbuster performance as the artist. Severo thanked those who helped her create her production and also the team that helped elevate production to the quality piece that guarantees success and further productions.

The production team, led by director Joanie Schultz is: Jacqueline Penrod, scenic design,, Katherine Davis, costume design; Rachael Cady, lighting design; Thomas Dixon, sound design, composer; Stephanie Rae Roberts, movement consultant; Margaret Spare, assistant lighting design; Mary Allison Joseph, Spanish language editor/dialogue coach; Alison Hanks, wig design; April Elizabeth Brewer, New Works production manager; Ivan Dario Cano, production stage manager.

“Frida” continues through May 19 as part of the KC Rep New Works series. It alternates in repertory with “Unreliable.” For tickets, times, seating, pricing and more information, go to the KC Rep website. 

Tags: “Frida” review, KC Rep, Copaken Stage, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

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