Chiara Atik’s new play, Poor Clare, is an astonishing new piece of theatre. Not knowing what to expect, save for it being based on the famous saint, I was amazed to hear the characters spouting modern vernacular such as might be heard in a high school. Is it funny? Oh yes! Is it a good story that cleaves to historical character? Again, yes…mostly. Saint Clare is well known as a disciple of Saint Francis of Assisi who eschewed a life of luxury.
Clare (played by the extraordinary Jordan Hull) is a teenager mostly concerned with her hair and appearance. In the first scene, personal servants Alma (Kari Lee Cartwright) and Peppa (Martina De Cardenas) are carefully doing up her extraordinary, woven hair, chat away about this and that. Clare has been betrothed to an older man and has a ho-hum attitude about the the whole deal. Her younger sister Beatrice (Donna Zadeh) is a high strung young woman who can’t believe Clare’s meh attitude about the upcoming nuptials.
Of course, Clare, in Ms. Atik’s whimsical telling of the story, encounters Francis (the delightful Michael Sturgis), who, in his fervor, has recently scandalized Assisi by stripping to the skin in front of the local bishop. Of course, Clare starts to change under the influence of Francis. She helps the budding saint to renovate a derelict church. When she wants to give her wealth away, she encounters a homeless beggar (tall, sad Tony DeCarlo), gives him the exquisite cloak off her back. Her mother, the sympathetic Ortolana (Ann Noble) tries to temper her daughter’s transformation, especially since the Clare’s wedding is looming, but she is inevitably bound for sainthood.
Poor Clare is a series of relatively short vignettes well paced by director Alana Dietze. The scenic design by Amanda Knehans is ideally minimalist, with gothic flourishes, and set pieces that move on and off smoothly. The costumes designed by Dianna K. Graebner are nothing short of exquisite, a real feast for the eyes. Special kudos to Klint Flowers for wig and hair design. The lighting design by Azra King-Abadi and sound design by Jeff Gardner are exactly as they should be. The production stage manager is Christopher Jerabek.
Poor Clare is produced by Kelly Beech, Chris Fields, and Rachael Zambias, along with associate producer, Alexa Yeames. Poor Clare runs Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 4 pm; and Mondays at 8 pm through November 29 at Atwater Village Theater.