Lucy Hill wears four masks in I, Claudia, the current Globe Theatre Main Stage production. Literal masks, that is; as a seeming extension of the mask work she explored in her solo show Bertha, Hill is currently performing I, Claudia, a one-person play that requires her to play four characters, a feat achieved through — you guessed it — masks.
Most of the masks have a cartoonish quality, or at least aren’t hoping you’d be fooled if you bumped into them on the street. The closest thing to an exception is Leslie. Her mask feels closer to a human face than the others — something in the eyes, I think — but in an off-putting, “uncanny valley” kind of way, perfect for a woman as harsh as she is.
In many ways, I, Claudia reemphasizes where attention should be placed in a theatre setting, the most obvious being away from the face but the arc of the play as well, rife with possibility but inconclusive in many ways. One minute’s a party, and the next minute’s arty.
Read my review of I, Claudia after the jump.
The stories of the four characters are interrelated, connecting through the character of Claudia. She’s a a twelve year old girl, a preteen dealing with the divorce of her parents by making a haven for herself in the basement of her school. Drachman, the school’s custodian, turns a blind eye to the situation, while her grandfather, Douglas, is caught in the past. Leslie, a business woman who parties as much as she does business, is oblivious to the effect she really has in the lives of others.
Claudia is just becoming aware of that same power that comes with growing up. As she’s unable to exercise control in her own life, trying to preserve a shred of it in her basement sanctuary, she’s finding out how she alters the lives around her.
Much is made of the transition from character to character. At no point is Hill ushered backstage to emerge changed. Nor does she ever flip a switch and go from Drachman to Douglas. The process of these transitions is such that you get to see the mannerisms of one character dropped one by one as those of another are picked up, clearly illustrating the careful thought Hill and her creative team have put into the physicality of each character.
Credit is due to Hill, a Globe Theatre regular. She has a talent for bringing levity where none was thought possible, a lively energy that never sacrifices the emotional core of a scene.
Parts of the play did seem to demand a looser audience. You’d think the Globe’s Main Stage, a theatre in the round, would make that happen, but moments where a rowdier crowd, one that could maybe hoot and holler a bit, didn’t land. The humour of the play always hit, but it didn’t always seem like the audience members were ready for a party.
I, Claudia runs until Sunday, April 28. For more information, go to the Globe Theatre website.