Thursday, February 22, 2007

Theatre: Please Take a Number

Writer/actress Nia Orms knows about the agonizing trek in getting the government to give up their money. It's not an easy task and Orms takes the shared experiences of those seeking welfare to create a poignant one-woman show, aptly titled Please Take a Number. She tells the stories of seven individuals who have nothing in common except surviving on a not-so-giving system.

Former girl-next-door turned neighborhood crack-head the character Jenny starts the show by providing stats on how many people are welfare recipients. We follow her inside a New York welfare office where the rest of Orms' characters will be waiting for their number to be called, each with their story to tell. Using nothing more than quick on-stage changes of clothing, Orms transforms into each character. She morphs easily from Jenny, who wears black socks sans shoes, a worn out sweater, and has bad teeth, to 16-year-old single mother Alexus, wearing a light brown side ponytail hairpiece, carrying her backpack and baby. For this second character, receiving welfare is a temporary stop until she gets it together.

Orms continues her transformations throughout the show, revealing a memorable cast of characters, each with specific facial features, assorted personalities and differing accents. One such character is aspiring Boricua actress Josie Santiago who, with no formal training, creates 'dacting', a combination of dance and acting where she uses her body to make her point and has been scamming the welfare system for over 5 years. She's convinced them that she has a bad right eye which makes it difficult to apply and keep a job. The most heart-wrenching of Orms' characters is the soft-spoken Sudan immigrant. Orms strips away Alexus' fiery attitude, Jenny's sweetness, and Josie's vivaciousness to reveal this character's gentleness and the tragic story of a young woman who has left her country after her family is viciously slaughtered.

Orms does a fantastic job diving into her characters and adding a face to those unseen statistics Jenny quotes in the beginning, ultimately showing the audience that people in the system can be those who are down on their luck waiting and hoping for a break.

Please Take a Number closes this Saturday, Feb. 24th.

-Mary Emerita Montoro, Contributing Writer

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