Love/Hate Relationship At Center Of “The Color Of August” At SATE

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The two actresses find out what parts they will play and stare at each other before going offstage to dress for their parts in “The Color Of August” at SATE. Photo: Joey Rumpell

The two ladies in the latest production of Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble have not seen each other in many years. As the hour long production of “The Color Of August” unfolds, we find that they have obviously had a serious relationship in the past and now it’s gone a bit sour. Or has it? This love/hate game that they play reveals how they can both get under each others skin but also how deep their love really goes.

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Ellie Schwetye as Laura tries to reach out to Rachel Tibbetts as Maria in SATE’s production of “The Color Of August.” Photo: Joey Rumpell

Two actors who have shone together and separately on stage before are reunited for this psyche-out piece that really stretches the boundaries of convention- Rachel Tibbetts and Ellie Schwetye. Most recently we saw them in the riveting two character play, “Cuddles” in the same space- The Chapel. The catch here is that each evening a coin toss decides which lady will play which role- they both have learned and rehearsed both roles. On opening night, Rachel Tibbetts played Maria and Ellie Schwetye played Laura.

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In this version, Rachel Tibbetts is Laura and Ellie Schwetye is Maria in “The Color Of August” at Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble. Photo: Joey Rumpell

We are seated before an obvious artist’s studio space with a paint splattered drop cloth covering the floor of the main stage. Maria enters and rearranges photos on the wall just off stage, naming each one as she turns, hangs and adjusts each one. They are all the same subject in various poses- Laura. When Laura enters, her cool approach makes you wonder if they really are friends. They soon embrace but the switch is turned so often in the play that you never really know if they are old friends or bitter enemies.

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The ladies toast to their complicated relationship in SATE’s “The Color Of August.” Photo: Joey Rumpell

Maria has become a successful artist and has married while Laura has struggled but is “comfortable” with her life as a struggling artist. As the evening progresses, we find power plays unfold as old wounds are opened and reminiscing brings about both good and bad memories. The capper of their many secrets revealed to each other results in a perverse and highly erotic painting “duel” that leaves them both covered head to foot in paint. Then the slightly off stage water fountain that has been off and on during the production comes into play as each takes a symbolic “cleansing” to clear their paint, their feelings and their friendship.

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Ellie Schwetye as Maria directs Rachel Tibbetts as Laura in the proper pose in “The Color Of August” at SATE. Photo: Joey Rumpell

Local actor Will Bofiglio has translated and adapted the original Paloma Pedrero script with a true flair for the dramatic. It’s a very powerful piece- especially in the hands of these two actresses and the tension filled direction of Lucy Cashion, it becomes a piece that keeps you engrossed for the short span of time that their world exists to us. Both the editing of the script and acting as dramaturg is Miranda Jagels Felix.

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Ellie Schwetye and Rachel Tibbetts in the Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble production of “The Color Of August.” Photo: Joey Rumpell

Bess Moynihan shines again with a deftly crafted set design which, as is so often the case, offers action both on the main stage and spilling out into the front of the stage. It’s a clever, functional set that makes an excellent space for Ms. Tibbetts and Ms. Schwetye. Bess also designed the lights which highlight the various playing areas without intruding on the life altering action taking place.¬†Elizabeth Henning’s costumes are perfect while director Lucy Cashion also produced an effective sound design.

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Rachel Tibbetts and Ellie Schwetye greet each other at the opening of “The Color Of August” at SATE. Photo: Joey Rumpell

“The Color Of August” is a haunting piece that follows you around long after you’ve seen it. SATE has done it again with an absorbing play that is brilliantly acted. You won’t want to miss this intriguing and somewhat mysterious play. It plays at The Chapel through August 19th. Give them a call at 314-827-5760 for tickets or more information.

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