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Betzi Hekman reflects on seven dreadful minutes in RPAC's "Breakfast Epiphanies" at Artspace.

The Mourning After

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If you are willing to venture down to Artspace Gallery on Broad Street at night to see a performance, you are already an adventurous soul. So this review is for those of you already predisposed to stepping out boldly into the artistic fray. If your sense of daring only extends to, say, the near West End, you need not read on.

So if you are still reading, I'm assuming that you might think witnessing a woman bare her soul in vivid, sometimes harrowing, ways is a good, even interesting way to spend an evening. Betzi Hekman does so in "Breakfast Epiphanies," a one-woman show produced by the Richmond Performing Arts Collective, and it is more than interesting; it's bracing, jarring, perhaps a little confusing, but ultimately enlightening. In this short (only 30 minutes long) slice of personal revelation, Hekman uses movement, narrative and snippets of song to dramatize the wrecked relationships of her past, tying it all to a moment of brutal abuse years ago. Though the incident only lasted seven minutes, Hekman shows how a short interlude can define the rest of your life.

The play's title is of course a sly reference to the Audrey Hepburn comic movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Sly because Hekman is the antithesis of Holly Golightly. While Hepburn exuded cool elegance and warm vulnerability, Hekman projects bubbly effervescence alternating with desperate neediness. The dancer, actress and stand-up comedian has a singular brand of charisma, a vibrant mixture of little-girl innocence and muscular self-assurance. Decked out in a scarlet spaghetti-strapped shirt that matches her striking dyed hair, Hekman prowls the Artspace floor, at one point seeming to seductively invite audience members to join her in her journey. She shares the makeshift stage with four phones and a long, flowing bolt of crimson fabric hanging from the ceiling. Before the performance is over, she uses the red cloth to create a half-dozen props: everything from a swing to a rope to a cocoon.

The impressionistic show is light on plot, the most cogent story line is delivered in the form of a fable about a "pale princess." Wordless interludes of movement at the beginning of the show give way to narrative stretches, including a poignant poetic scene that begins "I am alone" and ends with Hekman pondering the "twisted sheets and crumpled me" her lover has left in his wake. Using the simple gallery lighting system director Matthew Didner devises interesting ways to enhance changes of scene and mood. And movement coach Kathleen Legault channels Hekman's motion into clear statements and resonant metaphors.

This is RPAC's second "Breakfast" show: Two years ago, the company produced "Some Kind of Pink Breakfast," a mostly one-man show that showcased the remarkable talents of Chris Harcum. If I have any complaint about "Epiphanies," it is that this show isn't more like "Pink Breakfast." The 1999 production was an inspired multimedia mix that gave Harcum ample opportunity to demonstrate his skills. Hekman seems to be just warming up when this performance ends. As it is, "Breakfast Epiphanies" is just a zesty appetizer when I would have enjoyed a much more generous meal.



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