‘The Waiting Room’ promises, delivers powerful performances
A Sept. 28 performance of Lisa Loomer’s “The Waiting Room,” the latest performance art piece by the UALR theater department , captured the attention of its audience by delving deeply into subject matter that is close to our hearts: a woman’s struggle to be beautiful, her plight for gender equality and her battle with breast cancer.
This play is not intended for young audiences or those sensitive to adult content. While the program features some hilarious scenes and comedic characters, the main goal of the performance is, to perhaps, provoke raw emotion of its audience and bring it to the surface.
“The Waiting Room” opens with three women seated in the waiting room of a modern hospital awaiting medical advice for their respective illnesses. Forgiveness from Heaven (portrayed by UALR graduate Stephanie Ong) is an 18th-century Chinese woman who – in accordance with the beauty customs of her time — has been binding her feet for years, now to the point that her toes are falling off. Victoria (Emily Bruner) is a nineteenth-century British woman who participates in the unthinkable: reading. Her sudden bouts of opinion and bursts of emotion – no doubt antagonized by her incessant reading – have led her husband, a respected Victorian physician, to believe she suffers from hysteria. The cure is to cut the source of the problem with a hysterectomy. Wanda (Kazzie Cazort) is a modern Jersey girl with lots of sass and a liking for cosmetic surgery who, after countless alterations, suspects something serious may be plaguing her warped body.
Upon their encounters, the ladies comment on each other’s attire and try to understand each woman’s own society and culture. After a period of waiting, they are each seen by the well-meaning Doctor Douglas (Marquis Bullock). Douglas devotes his life to treating his patients, but that often causes him to intermingle daily distress with his leisure time at the golf course. He is eager for the FDA to conduct studies on a cancer treatment that is currently undergoing research at a Jamaican hospital. If it works, the treatment could save countless lives.
As the play progresses, the women must acknowledge that commitment to their own definitions of what is considered “beautiful” are responsible for the predicament in which they find themselves today. Forgiveness’s toes are falling off one-by-one, and her husband often rendezvous with his other wives. Victoria finds herself desiring to lash out at her husband and others but only wants to read her books, and Wanda learns she has a malignant tumor that needs immediate surgery.
This social commentary is filled with a cast of colorful characters ranging from the lively Jamaican nurse/waitress (Marissa Harris), the profits-obsessed hospital board member (Derrick Herman), his shareholding sidekick (DeAndre Lewis) and a memorable montage of several characters portrayed by junior dance major Danny Jimenez.
The production bravely addresses several concerns everyone knows about but no one wants to be the first to bring up. The elephants in the room include corporate corruption, male chauvinism, unhealthy husband-wife dynamics, cancer, race relations, AIDS and the controversy over patient rights.
For those that missed last weekend’s performances, the play will be running again from Oct. 3-6. The showings will be on Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 pm. Admission is $5 for UALR students, faculty/ staff and seniors, with a $10 charge for the general public.
For more information, call (501) 569-3456.