Tribune-Review – During rehearsals for Mary Rawson’s solo performance in Quantum Theatre’s “Ciara,” the running joke was that she was wondering when the other actors would show up.
She needn’t have worried.
Throughout the 90-minute, intermission-free drama, Rawson engages and holds the audience’s attention on her own as she delivers a measured, layered and thoroughly gripping accounting of her character’s life journey.
David Harrower’s “Ciara” is set in Glasgow, a once gritty, now post-industrial Scottish city not unlike Pittsburgh. Ciara is the daughter of a powerful, now-deceased mob boss and the wife of his equally violent and forceful successor.
After growing up in a world where women were either cloistered, ignored, abused or bartered, she is the owner of an upscale art gallery that sells the works of prominent Scottish artists to wealthy people looking to fill the walls of their big houses with big-name artists.
While she has shaped an identity for herself, she can’t quite escape entanglements with her past.
Audience members may know Harrower’s work from Quantum’s productions of his earlier plays “Knives in Hens” and “Kill the Old, Torture Their Young” or City Theatre’s production of his “Blackbird,” each of which is as challenging as it is distinctive.
Like his other plays, “Ciara” requires commitment from the audience.
Initially, Ciara’s enigmatic narrative may seem to ramble. But Rawson’s deliberate, occasionally humorous, always compelling delivery leads us to a chilling, yet deliciously cryptic, conclusion.
Like the naked female reclining above the set’s Glasgow skyline, Ciara leaves it up to each audience member to decide whether she’s a slumbering giant about to be awakened or a woman at peace with herself.
Rawson may be the only actor, but she is never without support on stage.
Director Karla Boos, artist Robert Qualters, media designer Joe Seamans, lighting designer C. Todd Brown, sound designer Anthony Stultz and costume designer Julianne D’Errico have collaborated with Rawson to create an artistic whole. Each aspect supports and enhances the others’ contributions.
Under the direction of dialect coach Don Wadsworth, Rawson’s Glasgow accent offers authenticity while remaining understandable.
A glossary in the program helps clarify some of the more unfamiliar Scottish slang.
Qualters, a prominent Pittsburgh artist and the 2014 Pennsylvania artist of the year, has created a colorful, intricate backdrop rooted in his distinctive style but contributing to the location, mood and intention of the drama.
Seamans and Brown enhance the ambiance with imagery and subtle shifts in lighting levels, sounds and tone. Some highlight crucial decorative bits of the set. Others fade in and out as overlays of people and locations.
They are not unlike the passing clouds that move across Glasgow as Rawson molds Ciara’s impressions, personalities and events from the distant and recent past into an accounting — but not a justification — for what occurs…