By Kristen Nevarez Schweizer
March 25, 2023
Hans Christian Andersen once said, “When words fail, music speaks.” Choreographer Carlin Michael Dixon adds, “But when music fails, that’s when dance begins.” I was reminded of this collaboration of quotes at the opening of NEAT, a one-woman play performed by two women, co-produced by Scripps Ranch Theatre and Loud Fridge Theatre Group.
NEAT could be called a staged memoir, as stories are told chronologically to trace the early life of playwright and actress Charlayne Woodard (who starred in the original 1997 production) and of her brain-damaged aunt, Neat. However, director Claire Simba amplified the theatrical experience in her production with animation by Leigh Akin and the addition of dancer and choreographer Nicole Diaz-Pellot.
Diaz-Pellot is dynamic; she carried the energy within and between scenes with serene expertise. The multi-talented Kandace Crystal masterfully handled all the dialogue (of over a dozen characters) through the 80-minute show, while Diaz-Pellot’s playful and somber moments elevated and anchored this coming-of-age tale. Her movement brought meaning between the lines and catharsis in the confusion.
Audiences who loved La Jolla Playhouse’s 2021 production of Woodard’s The Garden or the true stories told by compelling actors at the annual International Memoir Writer’s Association showcase What. Just. Happened? will be moved by this reflective production. Bravo to Loud Fridge Theatre Group for proving its belief that joyful collaboration informs and expands the creative process.