Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
The main theme of Dike is one's choice of how to love when that choice will not be mainstream. Two sisters are in conflict over one's choice to live life as a lesbian while the other chooses to embrace a life centered around love of god. The tricky part is to make the conflict stay dramatically interesting and to keep an even keel so both sides of issues get presented without favoritism. Ms. Benitez succeeds on both ends, and the play holds interest from start to finish. Except for a couple of very brief moments in the final scene between the sisters, balances are maintained. Even the ending is satisfactory for all that has gone before it.
With its heavily lesbian themes, Dike might get stuck being performed only in areas with large LGBT audiences, but I feel the themes rise above this, including feminist themes that give the play more universal appeal.
The cast is across the board brilliant, bringing chemistry between characters where it should be, while characters without intimate knowledge of each other are shown lacking it. Kelly Pekar, an actress I have often found lacking in charisma, proves that either I have been wrong in the past or she has grown into her own as an actress. As older sister Kristen, she is sure of herself, even as Kristen is still growing into her new persona as a lesbian. It is a performance of nuance and emotional strength, to anchor the production. Younger sister Rachel is played by Alice Marcondes with deep reserves of inner strength, based on love of and belief in Jesus Christ. Her older sister is perhaps the only one who can make a dent in that rock solid resolve.
Jen Diaz as Charlotte, Kristen's lover, is comfortable in her big girl lesbian attire, even when Kristen is not so much, but the love between the two is never in question. Morgan Meadows has the least showy role as Rachel's friend/confident, but in her big monologue late in the second act, she delivers the goods. The character isn't as integrated into the main conflicts, so she only intermittently is an organic piece of the major dramatic arc.
Tatiana Pandiani directs, but having guided the play through the early stages, has had much more importance than just drawing performances from these actors. It's a a testament to her fine work that Dike is as good a play as it is.
Fine scenic design by Jeffrey Webber keeps things flowing smoothly, and beautifully defines the library of the abbey where Rachel retreats to. Alison Gensmer's costumes are unobtrusive yet helpful in defining the characters, and Joseph P. Oshry's lighting is always on a high level of professionalism.
Sarasota is awash with great theater. Dike for sure shows off Urbanite Theatre at its best. Other companies have shows that show them off at their considerable best as well, so audiences have nothing but great choices locally. What a great season this is turning out to be.
Dike, through December 16, 2018, at Urbanite Theatre, 1487 2nd St., Sarasota FL. Visit www.urbanitetheatre.com for more information.