BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
A holiday fundraiser at the Chain Theatre brings Barbara Rosenblat to Long Island City, in the form of 14 different characters.
The “Orange is the New Black” star – she plays Miss Rosa on the hit Netflix series – will perform a staged reading of Jane Wagner’s “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” to benefit the Chain Theatre, one night only on Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. The play is part of a “12 Days of Chain Christmas” series staged this month by the Variations Theatre Group, which runs and operates the theater.
“The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” depicts 14 diverse but interrelated characters, including a fitness nut, a punk teenager and a Times Square “bag lady.” Rosenblat called the piece “very cleverly crafted.”
“The variety is what I find so delightful. The yin and yang of it,” she said.
Alongside TV acting and a theater resume that includes Broadway, Rosenblat has extensive experience recording audiobooks. Kirk Gostkowski, artistic director of the Variations Theatre Group, said that her “amazing training” from this work made her a perfect fit for the piece.
“It’s so difficult as an actor to be able to sound like different people,” Gostkowski said.
But with Rosenblat, the audience could close their eyes and think the actor had changed, he noted.
For her part, Rosenblat said, “I know what it means to have a large cast of characters in a single piece of work.”
She went on to explain that her preparation involves slow and thorough reading of the text, “allowing an audio landscape to start to rear its head.”
Gostkowski said that Wagner’s work fits comfortably into the Chain Theatre’s programming this season, which included other socially conscious writing of the same era, such as Eric Bogosian’s “Talk Radio.”
Both Rosenblat and Gostkowski also noted that the Chain Theatre’s stage is well suited to Wagner’s play.
“All these different people that she portrays are confessing things” throughout the reading, Gostkowski said. “A big function of our theater is we want you to feel like you’re part of the action, that you’re involved intimately with what’s happening, and this is really one of those kinds of plays.”
“I like the fact that I can practically touch everybody,” Rosenblat said of the space.
“I’ll physically be able to see faces and hear that love and that response,” she continued. “The shock, or the pain, or whatever it is, fills me with delight and urges me on and makes me feel more complete.”
For more information on Variations Theatre Group programming, visit www.variationstheatregroup.com. More information on Rosenblat can be found at barbarrosenblat.com.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.