Digging up 'Dirt' at Studio Theatre in Washington D.C. - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Digging up ‘Dirt’ at Studio Theatre in Washington D.C.

Holly Twyford’s broad range is evident in her latest role at Studio Theatre. She plays the contemplative Harper in “Dirt.” (Scott Suchman)


Making its world premier at Washington, D.C.’s Studio Theatre, “Dirt” [offers a thought-provoking evening of humor mixed with a bit of environmental peachiness

British playwright Bryony Lavery  returns to Studio following the 2006 production of her play “Frozen.” She brings with her a witty script you wish was longer than a two-act performance.

“Dirt” centers on the intersecting lives of five people in New York City the night one character dies unexpectedly. Holly Twyford deftly leads the cast as the fated Harper, a 30-something germophobe with a propensity for tardiness. Twyford, a Studio regular who turned in a strong performance in “Time Stands Still,” is reunited in “Dirt” with Matthew Montelongo with whom she co-stared in Studio’s 2003 production of Carl Churchill’s “Far Away” and Vassily Sigarev’s “Black Milk” in 2004. The pair works well together.

From left, Holly Twyford (Harper) and Natalia Payne (Elle) have the best lines in playwright Bryony Lavery’s “Dirt.” (Scott Suchman)

Montelongo is the likable Matt, Harper’s tightwad boyfriend. He is obsessed with numbers, calculating the amount of time lost while waiting for Harper to arrive. In the four weeks, three days, eight hours and 25 minutes that Harper has “stolen” from him during their three-year relationship, Matt posits he could have gone on a really great vacation. The couple is on an important “fingers-crossed” dinner date, in Harper’s words, the night she dies. The classically trained actress, Elle, (Natalia Payne) is their waitress.

The dinner date is the best scene in the first act. Elle hilariously describes the menu items in various accents and demonstrates her singing range. Harper has a one-sided conversation while Matt fumes at her for arriving 22 minutes late without providing a satisfactory apology.

During the second act, Harper’s existential exploration of her early death is a delight. “Why me? I had a four-pack,” stomach, she says. She reflects on her deeds through the lens of Buddhism and Christianity. Her review of the Ten Commandments is hilarious.

While funny, the characters in “Dirt” also obsess over toxins to varying degrees. Harper goes on ad nauseam about the chemicals in her “natural” hand cream. Elle details the alarmingly number of pollutants found in tap water. Humans are destroying the planet. Eating organic won’t prevent environmental degradation. I get it. But come on, I still have to drink tap water.

My only other qualm with Lavery’s script is the inclusion of the character of Guy (Ro Boddie), a reformed-party-boy-turned-healer whom Elle patronizes. This is no reflection on Boddie’s acting ability. I simply do not understand the purpose of his character in the play. The moment he decides to give up his vices is cliché.

“Dirt” is playing at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., through Nov. 11. Performances are Wednesdays, through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. There is no performance Wednesday, Nov. 7. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. All tickets are $20. For more information, call 202-332-3300.





About the author

Megan Kuhn

Megan Kuhn is a financial literacy advocate by day and a theater fan by night. One of her favorite possessions is the red jacket from “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” that she purchased at a costume sale at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Contact the author.

Comments are closed.