There is a fine line between madness and divine inspiration.
Ian August must have fallen on the "divine inspiration" side of the fence when he began writing his one-woman show Donna Orbits the Moon in January 2010, finishing it in February, and seeing it premiere in August under the auspices of Utah Contemporary Theatre. This set such a whirlwind pace from page to stage -- a process which, August said, normally takes five years -- the Garden State-based playwright himself seemed a bit surprised by it all.
On the other hand, early in the show, we get the feeling that the eponymous Donna (Kathryn Atwood) is leaning toward the "madness" side of the equation. She slaps the hand of a fellow grocery-store shopper when they both reach for the same bag of all-purpose unbleached flour. After this, she begins having increasingly alarming "moments": violent, angry episodes which threaten vacuum cleaners, gingerbread men, rude motorists, her marriage and -- when she starts hearing the voice of astronaut Buzz Aldrin (Joe Welsch) -- even her sanity.
Oh, it's all in good fun. The play is billed as "a comedic one-woman show about anger, grief, Apollo 11, and the importance of baked goods" -- and the expert timing of the script, along with Atwood's virtuoso motor-mouthed delivery, elicited full-throated laughter from the audience. Still, as the climax approached, and we learned the source of Donna's seeming madness, the laughter was suddenly replaced by tears. The denouement was so quick none of us really had much of a chance to recover, and I and many others were weeping openly as we exited the theater.
Review by Brandon Burt