‘An Ac­ci­dent’ is tex­tured, taut

Play­wright’s own ex­pe­ri­ence lends an af­fect­ing tone

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - ON STAGE - By Chris­tine Dolen

The best ac­tors are su­perb chameleons who dive deeply into the world of each new play and bring a char­ac­ter to life from within.

El­iz­a­beth Price is among those im­pres­sive, bold the­ater artists, in re­cent years tack­ling roles in plays by Wil­liam Shake­speare, Os­car Wilde and a host of con­tem­po­rary play­wrights. But her new­est role, Libby in the Pri­mal Forces pro­duc­tion of Ly­dia Stryk’s “An Ac­ci­dent,” jux­ta­poses life and art in a chill­ing, deeply af­fect­ing way.

Stryk’s play, which had its world pre­miere in 2010 at San Fran­cisco’s Magic Theatre, was writ­ten as a re­sponse to the play­wright’s own ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent: She was hit by a truck driver while rid­ing her bi­cy­cle.

He fled the scene, leav­ing her to nav­i­gate the com­pli­cated process of healing men­tally and phys­i­cally, in­clud­ing learn­ing to walk again. “An Ac­ci­dent” imag­ines what might have hap­pened if the driver had stuck around, felt re­morse and taken re­spon­si­bil­ity for that life-al­ter­ing mo­ment.

Price has gone through a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence, sur­viv­ing be­ing hit by a car while on her bike, en­dur­ing surg­eries and re­hab, slowly walk­ing again as she con­tin­ued to act, di­rect and teach. For this won­der­ful and highly skilled ac­tor, Libby’s re­cov­ery, her rac­ing mind and un­co­op­er­a­tive body, aren’t just con­cepts to be com­mu­ni­cated.

Staged by Pri­mal Forces founder Keith Gars­son at Fort Laud­erdale’s Em­pire Stage, “An Ac­ci­dent” re­unites Price with Ni­cholas Wilder, who starred op­po­site her in “Re­born­ing” at Arts Garage in Del­ray Beach. Wilder, an ac­tor with a long list of cred­its in re­gional the­ater, two tour­ing pro­duc­tions, an off-Broad­way “Ma­jor Bar­bara” plus film and TV roles, gives an im­pres­sively tex­tured per­for­mance as An­ton, a his­tory teacher wracked with guilt af­ter he nearly kills Libby in

An Ac­ci­dent

Where: Em­pire Stage, 1140 N. Fla­gler Drive, Fort Laud­erdale. When: Through May 27. Show­times are 8 p.m. Fri­day-Satur­day and 5 p.m. Sun­day. Cost: $30. Con­tact: 866-811-4111 a gro­cery store park­ing lot.

The play is set in Libby’s hos­pi­tal room, but the ab­stract set by Bomb­shell Pro­duc­tions — a sea of wrin­kled fab­ric that takes on the var­i­ous col­ors of Nate Sykes’ light­ing of an oth­er­wise black space — may leave you won­der­ing whether Libby is trapped in a limbo be­tween life and death.

Ini­tially stand­ing be­side her bed as a phys­i­cal em­bod­i­ment of her spirit, dressed in white and pan­ick­ing as she ob­serves her in- ert body, Libby is con­fused. She doesn’t re­mem­ber her name, the ac­ci­dent, her former life. Drugs have dulled the pain and her mem­ory, but with the ex­cep­tion of one big toe, she can­not move. Will she walk again? Re­cover her past? No one knows.

An­ton, a reg­u­lar pres­ence at her bed­side, tor­ments him­self with the knowl­edge that, had he not given in to a crav­ing for cher­ries and stopped at the store af­ter school that day, none of this would have hap­pened. He would have been at home, not at the gro­cery. He wouldn’t have backed his car out as she dis­tract­edly ran past. He wouldn’t have nearly crushed her.

“An Ac­ci­dent” is both a puz­zle and a fenc­ing match. Grad­u­ally, the pieces of Libby’s past and the de­tails of the ac­ci­dent come into fo­cus. Wilder’s An­ton wants to help heal Libby, help her come out of her dam­aged state. He is largely mild-man­nered, un­til her habit of weaponiz­ing his words drives him to fury.

Price’s Libby is smart, sar­donic, ready to ex­act psy­cho­log­i­cal re­venge. When she finds An­ton at her bed­side, she asks, “So you’re the jerk that ru­ined my life? You’re him?” And yet, as the days and nights and weeks go by, the two es­tab­lish a bond that briefly veers into the erotic, as An­ton’s clumsy at­tempt at healing Libby with his hands turns into soft kisses de­liv­ered at her com­mand.

“An Ac­ci­dent” is a taut twohan­der with brief scenes, its run­ning time clock­ing in at about 75 min­utes. Un­der Gars­son’s di­rec­tion, Price and Wilder nav­i­gate the play’s tricky emo­tional jour­ney with grace, power and deeply con­veyed truth.

RICK OWEN/COUR­TESY

El­iz­a­beth Price plays a woman se­verely in­jured in an ac­ci­dent; Ni­cholas Wilder por­trays the per­pe­tra­tor.

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