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Review: Solo Show ‘They Must Be Wings’ Soars

Play by Diana Small depicts a woman obsessed with famed dancer Anna Pavlova

In They Must Be Wings at the Fisbon Pescadrome, a dancer appears, in classic white, to re-create Anna Pavlova’s famous dying swan ballet. However, the young woman is overcome by a tenacious attack of the hiccups, and after fleeing offstage and sustaining an injury finds herself unable to carry on because of her wounded pride — and shin.

Thus, we are left with a crestfallen Bernice, this young woman who idolizes Pavlova, and only wants to help her audience understand the greatness of this legend of the dance world. As she gamely attempts to carry on and convey something of Pavlova’s magic to the audience, discussing the difficulty of ballet as well as the dancer’s own struggle, we see Bernice’s dreams and aspirations shine through, as well as the pain of her failures.

This solo play by Diana Small, written for Marie Ponce, was first performed two years ago and was revived for one night only last Saturday. Lush and compact, it comes in at well less than an hour.

Small’s writing is wry and witty, with a deep undercurrent of compassion. The physical humor plays beautifully against the poignancy, and the result is a rich experience of humanity.

Ponce has a great gift for evoking the many dimensions of a character, and here we see her expressions and physicality reflect Bernice’s passions, her demons, and her mundane daily challenges. Even at the most slapstick-y moments, we are laughing with her, and at the depths of her despair, our hearts ache.

Ponce and Small both are involved with Lit Moon Theatre Company, as well as other local theater efforts.  Look for them in other productions, and with any luck, there will be more chances to see this excellent play.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.

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