Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great Sans Merci Review for BPP

Got a great review from the Bloomington Herald on my play Sans Merci, produced by the Bloomington Playwrights Project as this year's Reva Shiner winner. I spent the weekend in Bloomington, getting to meet Reva Shiner and hang some with my amazing cast and uber-cool artistic director Rich Perez.

Here's the review. I totally agree that the acting and directing on this show was amazing! As were technical elements. Feeling very blessed.
‘Sans Merci’ both brutal and tender
By Glenn Kaufmann H-T Reviewer
October 27, 2008

This past week, Bloomington Playwrights Project unleashed this year’s winner of the
Reva Shiner Full Length Play Contest on the world.

A take-no-prisoners, highly charged emotional drama, “Sans Merci” is by turns brutally
honest and achingly tender and gentle.

Set in both San Francisco and Colombia, “Sans Merci” draws its name from the John Keats poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” which tells the tale of a knight who is bewitched by a woman who steals his heart and then leaves him stranded and alone, but forever thinking fondly of her. This theme of a woman who has stolen your heart and left you stranded is key to “Sans Merci,” the play, and writer Johnna Adams deftly mirrors and reflects it in every second of the drama on stage.

Elizabeth has come to visit the home of her deceased daughter’s best friend to collect any and all tokens of her daughter’s life that may be left behind. Though they’ve never met, it’s clear from the very beginning that there is a tension between Elizabeth and Kelly (the friend). When it’s revealed that one of the possessions left behind was Tracy’s Gay Pride flag, the pieces drop into place.

The scene shifts to the day that Kelly and Tracy met and first fell in love. On that day, Tracy presented an oral critique of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” to her sophomore literature class. Nervous, she falls into a panic attack and is “saved” by Kelly. The two develop a bond of friendship that quickly grows into a love affair.

As “Sans Merci” shifts back and forth between the combative conflict a grieving mother has with her daughter’s lover and the growing passion of two young lovers, headstrong, blissfully unaware of their own, and filled with the urge to make things “right” in the world, we are granted glimpses of both beginning and end. But Sans Merci never betrays itself. Nothing is ever spoiled. No piece of information is meted out too soon. We are given just enough to push the story forward. Though in the end we know too much. The truth of how and why Tracy died is so painful and the delivery so moving that it challenges our notions of love, and what it means to carry a person with us forever.

All three women in this show are outstanding. Francesca Sobrer is deeply moving as Elizabeth, a loving parent who wrestles with not only her daughter’s death, but her daughter’s sexual orientation, and finally the knowledge that she was loved more deeply than she ever imagined. Margot Morgan is a wonder as Kelly, the lover left alive but mortally wounded and forever recalling the woman who stole her heart. Molly Kruse, a newcomer to the BPP stage, is spot on as the beautiful, brilliant, yet painfully shy college student, who learns to embrace love and life, and sadly pays the ultimate price. There is a very rare chemistry between these women and it fills the stage with a palpable energy.

Director Bruce Burgun molds this energy exquisitely, creating moments of utter clarity onstage. While Lee Burkes’ set design deftly keeps Elizabeth and Kelly apart for much of the play, mirroring the emotional distance they feel toward one another, his set gives Burgun the freedom and flexibility to bring the women together from across the room in the play’s most powerful scene, as they divide the artifacts of Kelly’s life between them.

Despite the fact that this play does contain nudity and graphic content, I highly recommend it for all but the youngest or most impressionable audience members. For sheer theatrical skill and raw emotional power, this show is a rare gift to the artistic life of any community, and we are blessed to have it in Bloomington for even a short time. You must go see this show.


Ken said...

Wow. Congratulations! That's a great review!

Joy Shayne said...

Dear Ms. Adams,

I just saw the last Friday performance of Sans Merci at BPP.

I'm a writer, and I didn't know anyone in the audience well enough to say what I need to say about it as a writer.

Can you please contact me at for a private letter?

You are definitely snogging primordial fire in Sans Merci. Loved it. But as a writer I have to tell you my thoughts.

Thank you,

Joy Shayne
Bloomington, IN

Margot said...

Dear Johnna,

I wanted to tell you how honored I am that I was able to be a part of the BPP production of Sans Merci. It was the most wonderful, and most challenging, role I have ever had the fortune of playing.

I would like to write you a longer note, but don't have your email address. Would you email me so I can share a thought with you?


Rod Isaac said...


My name is Rod Isaac and I am the Artistic Director for The Theater Within in Indianapolis, IN. I read this review on suggestion from a friend who saw the show and was blown away. How do I get a copy? Are you represented by one of the publishing houses? I would be interested in reading the script for possible inclusion in my next season. Please contact me at with info as to how to get a copy of the script. Thank you for your time.

Rod Isaac