How do the decision we make influence who we are to become? Can one decision change the entire trajectory of our lives? These are the questions explored in the latest musical from director Susie Gidseg and the Vestige Group, the hit of the 2008 ArkSpark Festival, Di[verge], which follows the two very different paths a single woman is forced to go down when she makes two very different decisions about one small event, and how her life becomes utterly different because of it. Is it for the best, or for the worst, and will we always want what we don’t have? This play tries to explore these questions as well as many more as we follow the one woman down the two diverging trails along the streets of New York and the suburbs of New Jersey, into one of the most terrible events in the history of nation.
It’s fascinating to watch these two actresses spin off in different directions with the same character, each one turning this one woman into two very different character, creating an intriguing journey through just how a person can change based on the decisions they make. Kylie Baker plays up the sarcasm and awkwardness of her character well, bringing more laughs to the plate, while Evelyn LeLonde pulls in more emotion and sensitivity from the role, tugging the audience’s heartstrings several times throughout. These traits continue through the piece, with Baker getting her fair share of the jokes, while LeLonde is best when in the midst of her misery for the most part, though she keeps it jovial with some of the funniest lines in the piece. While Baker’s story has its moments, it’s really LeLonde that creates the most memorable moments, as the emotional depth of her journey is riveting to watch. Baker’s adventures as a cheating housewife just doesn’t hit to the same sorrowful notes of LeLonde’s difficult rise to stardom. The play is admittedly lopsided, and we seem to spend more time with LeLonde’s character, making her seem like more of the star and Baker as almost a supporting role. We almost feel that if Baker had been given a bit more time on stage, she may have gotten to grow with the role a bit more, and shown us a few more sides to the character, but as it is, she gets outshined by LeLonde in most instances.
The Vestige Group has been slowly growing a fanbase, and with this show, they may have found a foothold in the Austin theatre scene. With gorgeous sets and fine video work by Will Hollis Snider, they utilize the Dougherty Arts Center space better than any group I’ve yet seen, and with live music by Paul Szent-Miklosky, the entire experience becomes a little something special. It may not have the shine or polish of a musical at Summer Stock or Zach, but it more than makes up for it in depth of feeling and intimacy. It has a problem with unevenness of story telling, and some of its songs don’t have the power they should, but on the whole, it’s a pleasant, quiet musical with a strong emotional backbone and two fine performances by its two leading ladies, especially Evelyn LeLonde.