We’re Partial to Tanya Barfield’s Bright Half Life


“Soul mates — an idea that may or may not exist.” With those words, spoken in the opening moments, Tanya Barfield’s new play Bright Half Life commences catapulting through a romance. Barfield’s fluid drama time-travels across a long-term relationship, fast-forwarding to its end and flashing back to its origins (an office romance) with few markers to divide scenes. As Erica (Rebecca Henderson) and Vicky (Rachael Holmes) struggle with the painful surrenders of sovereignty that come with intimacy and marriage, they confront cultural identity issues: Vicky is black, bi, and the boss at work; Erica is lesbian, white, and underemployed.

As psychological American domestic plays go, this is taut writing. Barfield suggestively juxtaposes sequences from the couple’s lives, revealing how the emotions that arise define their dynamic over time. The script occasionally overreaches, with repetition in the late fragments. But with two focused performances at its core, this simple but exacting production, directed by Leigh Silverman for Women’s Project Theater, covers a lot of emotional ground in just 60 minutes. Erica’s and Vicky’s travails — with family, work, and each other — demonstrate how sustaining love requires fortitude and courage. Even soul mates must continually negotiate their terms of endearment.

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