Opening Nights: Bo-Nita


Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), 443-2222, $12–$65. 7:30 p.m. Wed.–Sun., plus matinees. Ends Nov. 17.

Ahhh, 13. Even in the most optimized life, that milestone year cultivates more awkwardness and drama than any other. In most lives it also cultivates melodrama, clichés, sullenness, depression, and a host of other tedious symptoms mostly absent from Elizabeth Heffron’s beguiling new one-woman play. In it we meet a smart, sensitive St. Louis girl (eponymous Bo-Nita), her socially marginal single mom Mona, Mona’s various consorts, and Grandma Tiny, known for “professional” belly-dancing in stilettos.

Hannah Mootz deftly and heartbreakingly embodies all these characters and more in rapid-fire situational episodes Bo-Nita recounts. Directed by fringe fave Paul Budraitis, Mootz teeters between girl and hag, thug and wag, with nary a moment’s conflation. Her multiple performances in one seal her reputation as one of Seattle’s most intriguing and technically adept talents. Though the only performer onstage, each of her distinct characters steals scenes from the others; it’s a stage trick like an Escher drawing.

Bo-Nita tells the funny, affecting 90-minute story of her life while kicking around the playground of her new school, evoked by Jennifer Zeyl’s adobe walls—painterly and desolate as a Balthus interior—which Robert J. Aguilar saturates in colored light reflecting her emotions (from howling magenta to sun-bleached bone). She has plenty to talk about, starting with a mishap in which she thought her “semi-ex-stepfather Gerard” had died while sexually accosting her, and the consequences as she, Mona, and Mona’s current beau Leon (aka Leroy, #47, Whozzits) trump up what they think is a plausible scenario to dispose of the body. Even while packing Gerard’s death-induced stiffie into fishnets, Bo-Nita’s lexicon glides seamlessly between raunchiness and poetry; her overuse of similes underscores the urgency to make herself heard by a world outside the pail of mean crabs she was born into.

Local playwright Heffron (Mitzi’s Abortion, New Patagonia) gives ambiguities their ample due: Gerard isn’t a pure monster, and Mona isn’t stupid or without a conscience. But the system has failed everyone through wrong incentives and lack of opportunities, compounded over generations. The boppy refrain of Blondie’s “Dreaming” captures the piece’s dream-deferred, dashed hopes. It’s shattering to watch the song pass from Mona’s anthem to Bo-Nita’s.

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