Donna Orbits the Moon

Posted September 21, 2010 in
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For a one-woman play about mid-menopausal schizophrenia, Donna Orbits the Moon seemed pretty spot on. The play touched on family, friends, bake sales and feelings of insanity. I'm no forty-something year old, but based on the reaction of the audience members of that age and their slightly amused husbands, I'd say it was relatable on more than a few levels.

Kathryn Atwood plays Donna, a caring wife and mother of two kids who is going through a tough few months, and the audience doesn't get to know exactly why until towards the last few minutes of the show. She's dealing with pesky acquaintances clamoring for her Goose Berry Pie recipe, slapping the hand of a stranger who is grabbing for the same bag of flour, a car ride gone haywire, and on top of all the ensuing mayhem, she's got a voice in her head claiming to be Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, telling her she "[has] to come up, before [she] goes down."

The content of the play itself was amusing, although it could have had a better delivery. The hour-and-a-half long monologue seemed dated, like it was supposed to be set in the mid fifties or so, but also commented on subjects that have happened in more recent years, which threw off the whole "homemaker/mom/i-got-married-to-my-husband-right-out-of-high-school" vibe she was giving out. Her thick Minnesotan accent was pretty hilarious, though, chattering on and on about her mis-adventures and family members. The audience on opening night was very gracious with their booming laughter, which was later replaced by a sinking feeling when we learn the true source of Donna's hysteric antics.

Donna Orbits The Moon was easy to identify with—not so much slapping stranger's hands or yelling at a vacuum cleaner—but audience members seemed to relate to things like finding out your daughter's new sexual preference or being embarrassed about a friend who isn't quite the sharpest tool in the shed.

Donna Orbits The Moon ended abruptly after the climax, which gave the audience little time to absorb what was going on in her life. The abrupt ending was almost better than dragging on for too long about how she felt about it.

Kathryn Atwood did a great portrayal of her character, tearing up at times, like she really might go home and yell at her own vacuum, as she did in the play. Playwright, Ian August,  started writing in January, finished in February, and the play was on stage ready to be heard by the masses by September. Unfortunately at times the speedy process seemed less like efficient work and more like some corners had been cut. The set wasn't much to scream at, just a tilted couch as if to exemplify her insanity, with some pillows and another chair. The dialogue got choppy at some points, but everything was brought back together with the small voice of Buzz Aldrin chattering in the back of Donna's head.

Overall, this was a great way for Utah Contemporary Theater to start off their "Free Night of Theater" initiative. Donna Orbits the Moon was well received by fans of theater and critics alike.