Blue Heron Theatre

Ardelle Striker, Ph.D., Producing Artistic Director

Jennie Miller, Managing Director

presents

ALMA AND MRS. WOOLF

By ANNE LEGAULT

Translated by DANIEL LIBMAN

Directed by JIM PELEGANO

 

www.blueheron-nyc.org

 

Based on the March 7 through 30, 2003 run at Blue Heron Arts Center, Studio Theatre

 

Set and Lighting Design ROMAN TATAROWICZ

Costume Designer ROBERT MARTIN

Production Stage Manager CASEY WILSON

Press Representative JIM BALDASSARE

 

JOAN GRANT as Mrs. Woolf

NICOLE ORTH-PALLAVICINI as Alma

 

SIN, SELF-LOATHING AND SUICIDE

In 1935, just days after being acquitted for the murder of her husband, Alma Rattenbury took her own life by stabbing herself in the chest six times on the shores of the River Avon. She was already dead when her body fell into the water. Her lover, initially sentenced to death, was later spared. Alma did not live long enough to learn of this reversal of fortune. In 1941, convinced that she would succumb to a madness from which she would never emerge, Virginia Woolf weighed her body down with stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse.

ALMA AND MRS. WOOLF is the tale of an imaginary meeting between Virginia Woolf and Alma Rattenbury in a quizzically locked London reading room. Set on the very day that Mrs. Rattenbury committed suicide, the play is an intelligent blending of historical record, philosophical dissertation and interpretative biography.

These two fascinating women of the Twentieth Century talk of love, abuse, sex, madness, creativity and death. An obvious nod to their individual demises, they even discuss stones, as Alma passes a pocketful of those thrown at her by an angry crowd following her acquittal to an intrigued Mrs. Woolf as a gesture of "good luck." Virginia Woolf recounts her many losses, the incestuous sexual abuse she suffered as a child, and the subsequent "purple rages" that marked so much of her adult life. It is the infamous Alma Rattenbury, however, who gets the meaty bits of ALMA AND MRS. WOOLF.

Painting herself in the role of the wanton woman, Alma recounts her three marriages, the scandal that caused herself and Francis Rattenbury to flee Victoria, Canada following their public adultery and subsequent nuptials, her later seduction of their eighteen-year-old chauffeur, George Stoner, and his ultimate murder of her ailing third husband. Virginia Woolf, living a quieter life, most likely surprised very few when her final suicide attempt was successful. Yet, Alma, a woman who appears at once self-assured and self-possessed, though not necessarily, despite all of her talk of it, destined for such a bloody, self-inflicted demise, emerges an enigma.

Were it not for the program notes, most of the audience would not even know of Alma’s gruesome end. In that way, ALMA AND MRS. WOOLF plays more like an historical footnote that never was – the chance encounter of two very different women who had such very similar ends – but that very well could have been. Such very different women, they were, but really, not so disparate in their existences.

- Kessa De Santis -

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