There are unanswerable questions posed by playwright Christopher Demos-Brown in his world premiere of Stripped. Who loves a child more? Its birth mother? Its adoptive parents?
Who should keep it, the Russian pole dancing stripper who saves over a $100,000 for the child's education and admits to prostitution or the well to do middle-aged couple who have adored the child for eight years and been adored in return?
Played against the huge backdrop of a cruelly scowling Lady Justice blinded by the American flag, Stripped digs into the intensity of love in chilling detail.
Demos-Brown tells his story so imaginatively, surprise after surprise, that every scene is a challenge to the veteran cast. And they respond with a realism that surges far past the ordinary.
Lindsey Corey is extraordinary as Masha, the divorced mail order bride, pole dancer/prostitute, who opens the show with an erotically writhing display on the center stage stripper's pole. Masha is the mother of a baby girl and her love, desperation and frustration is captured brilliantly by Corey. Her Russian accented broken English is a delight, her monologues things of the saddest beauty.
Matt Stabile is Zack, Masha's sometime live-in lover. Stabile is impressively grounded as the losing small time criminal who thinks only of himself.
Dual roles go to Margot Moreland as a judge and as Emma, the woman who adopts Masha's daughter, and to Chaz Mena as Nicholas, Emma's husband and as Masha's lawyer. Both these actors do everything right. Always.
Erica Peebles, the child services attorney is played by Makeba Pace who nails the outrage of finding children who are being abused. Her frustration is frightening when dealing with both Masha and the Judge.
Ava-Riley Miles plays Masha's daughter eight years after she has been adopted.
But all is not angst and tears in the cleverly written Stripped. Masha and Zack have a funny riff on the various uses of the olde Anglo Saxon word beloved by all. English grammar and Russian literalism make strange bedfellows. And speaking of bed, Masha and Zack make strikingly vivid use of her sofa.
And you don't know fury and fear until you watch the raging Masha drive her pistol into Emma's groin. Tension in the house? Oh, yes.
Stuart Meltzer not only directed a fast ninety minutes, he also designed the intriguing sound. An impressive set from Michael McClain with its overbearing Lady Justice, marble government walls, stripper's poles. Beautifully lighted by Rebecca Montero. Estela Vanrcovich designed the very appropriate costumes.
Imagination and talent thrive at Zoetic and never more so than in Christopher Demos-Brown's Stripped.
Playing through November 22 at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami. 305-949-6722