Violet is your typical underdog-makes-good story: A woman disfigured in a freak ax accident when she was 13 must learn to accept her inner beauty.

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Ugly duckling flies coop

And the moral of the story is: Beauty is only skin deep.

Violet is your typical underdog-makes-good story: A woman disfigured in a freak ax accident when she was 13 must learn to accept her inner beauty. "If you are disfigured, that is not vanity," Violet says. "That is pain." Determined to have movie-star features, Violet buys a bus ticket, investing in the one "cure" for her ugliness she hasn't yet tried: a good, old-fashioned miracle, courtesy of a televangelist in Tulsa.

Violet

A Contemporary Theater, 292-7676

ends November 15

We can't see the effects of Violet's accident, but they're there, in the way actress Lauren Ward—in a moving, quirky performance—lets her hair fall in her face and her lips purse. By contrast, Violet's pre-accident self, played by talented 13-year-old local Vicki Noon, skips around and sings. With these two Violets onstage at the same time, the audience is forced to imagine the 12 years of taunting and social ostracism Violet must have endured. It's hard to do, when you consider how, as a sexually mature woman, Violet must have confronted agonies far worse than some boy teasing her on walks home from school.

This relatively simple plot, based on Brian Crawley's The Ugliest Pilgrim, is given a complication by the setting, the South of 1964. The story makes it clear that Violet, because of her disfigurement, has a special understanding of prejudice based on skin; thus her affinity with a black serviceman she meets on the bus.

As for the music, there isn't a single memorable lyric. Given the strong roles and the lack of catchy tunes, Violet would have made a better play. The songs have a tendency to intrude upon spoken scenes, particularly when Violet flirts with the two servicemen. Their feelings for her are awkwardly conveyed in the writing and just as awkwardly made into songs. However, the caliber of the singing—featuring mostly bluegrass, R&B, and gospel—is top-rate, particularly that of Ward and John Wilkerson, who plays Violet's father.

 
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