A professional alter ego, a salsa dancer and a talking leg. These seem like soap opera characters, yet they are the unlikely characters in a dramatic production. “Out on a Limb,” presented by Dramatic Women, brings an autobiographical piece by UCSB’s very own dramatic art Professor Catherine Cole to life.
The play revolves around Vivian Falls’ (Nancy Finn) busy life as a drama professor, new mother, and daughter of a father dying of cancer (Braden McKinley). Shortly after the birth of her child Max, she discovers a tumor on her leg that changes her entire life dramatically. The discovery of the tumor opens Vivian’s eyes to her own mortality and the lack of empathy the medical world takes towards treating her. During her troubles with cancer treatments, the audience sees her struggle with recovery as well as the eventual death of her father.
The unique stage designs by Jennifer Estes, in addition to the good direction of Ellen K. Anderson, bring the confusing world of Vivian to life. A projection screen with images of her child Max, along with a simple desk, display Vivian’s world and struggles to the audience. Finn brings the character to the stage, but it is with her professional alter ego, played by Vivien Minton, that a real dramatic connection with the audience is achieved.
A unique connection also exists between Vivian and her father since they are both fighting cancer. Still, it seems odd that the playwright chose to examine the unique bond and relationship of the female protagonist with her father instead of her mother, whom the audience never sees.
“Out on a Limb” examines the world of a woman’s mind when confronted with difficult struggles in life. The dancing MRI scan, professional alter ego, singing leg and salsa dancer are all part of the protagonist’s confusing struggle with her medical and family life. However, the over-characterization draws away from Vivian’s life and makes it less dramatic. The playwright makes the right connection with Vivian’s relationship with her professional alter ego, yet overdoes the rest. With some strong points in the play, it lacks the dramatic potential needed to make it believable. The strange array of characters make the production look like an East Village performance piece trapped in an episode of “Providence” with a dead father (instead of mother) and a bunch of strange alter egos.
“Out on a Limb” performs through Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. at the Center Stage Theater at Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara. $10 students; $12.50 general. For more information, call 963-0408.