Written by its performer, Lucy Roslyn, and directed by Josh Roche, Orlando is a solo show named after the classic LGBTQ work of literature by Virginia Woolf.
Now playing at 59E59 Theaters in New York City until June 11, Orlando takes the British literary work that was famously inspired by Vita Sackville-West and her romantic but ultimately doomed relationship with Virginia Woolf.
That book is not only a great, genre-defying work of art, it is perhaps the longest and most transcendent breakup letter of all time. It is also, as most LGBTQ people know, one of the first — if not the very first — 20th Century novel to deal with pan-gender identity and polymorphous sexuality.
But how does a 1928 novel become a contemporary one woman show? Well, playwright and performer Lucy Roslyn has especially taken the breakup message of the book to heart and braids its characterizations and narrative in a masterful display of wit, word play and compelling physical presence to deal with her own breakup, as a bisexual who meets her married female lover in hotel rooms to consummate their ardent passion for each other, only for it to meet the same fate as Woolf and Sackville-West’s connection.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
The performance starts with Roslyn literally citing from the novel and noting curious aspects of it that are both alienating and relatable. For me, the most relatable and instructing takeaway was her very personal interpretation of the book: which is the belief that we may morph, begin again, start over, reinvent and self-identify. This is an essential aspect of being queer and it is one that we can sometimes all too easily forget, especially when we are suffering from discrimination or heartbreak.
Roslyn is an assured performer who brings her text to life with little more than the assistance of stage lights and a floor lamp that provides both illumination and stands in for other characters and sometimes her own epiphanies.
This heartfelt performance is perfect for lovers of queer English literature, for lovers of live performance, and also for any queer person who would welcome the opportunity for catharsis in real time, which is what the theater does so well.
Get tickets here.