“People are hard because life makes them that way.”
This single line could alone define the story and tragic journey of Hayley Jones, the fractured and tormented soul at the forefront of The Girl with the Red Hair.
Written and directed by Anthony M. Laura, The Girl with the Red Hair had a long road to Opening Night at the Gene Frankel Theater. Originally set to debut in 2020, the play found itself shuttled behind the curtain as the pandemic took the stage. It’s a testament to Laura, and to his cast and crew, that The Girl with the Red Hair endured.
We should be grateful they did.
The Girl with the Red Hair is a wonderfully told story, following the heartbreaking journey of Hayley Jones. Laura’s script places a premium on the value and power of words and the potency of emotional context. The transitions from scene to scene were flawless, the manic pace of the story a direct parallel to Hayley’s struggles.
The performance of the cast was exemplary, led by the empowered work of Jaclyn Holliday as Hayley Jones and Alexandra Rooney, who delivered equally in the role of Young Hayley Jones, a performance full of sweet reminders of the innocence of youth. Holliday owned the stage, managing manic madness through moments of absolute frailty with fervor and grace.
From the start, The Girl with the Red Hair draws you in. As those in attendance are settling in their seats, they are treated to Rooney’s Young Hayley, lip-synching to an array of classics, every bit the embodiment of youth, the star of the show in the privacy of her bedroom. Once the play begins, we’re immediately thrown into the fire with Hayley as she is introduced to her new life in a mental institution. From interactions with the shy but impactful Cortney, played beautifully by Mia Rose Kavensky, to Eve, the sexually charged firestorm played by Katia Mendoza, Hayley’s life rides from one extreme to the other.
Hayley spirals, winding through clarity and paranoia, heartbreak and anger, reality and fantasy, memories of life with her mother entwined to guide the viewer to a sense of understanding in how Hayley fell so far. Mental illness is a sensitive topic, but Laura and his cast bring a sense of hope within the pain, granting a peek into a world few of us know or understand while driving home the importance of proper treatment alongside a need for recognition of the warning signs.
Joining Holliday, Rooney, Kavensky, and Mendoza, the cast is rounded out with stellar and memorable performances by Delano Allen as Coury Lewis, Olivia Fergus-Brummer as the bubbly and optimistic Azura, the girl with the red hair, Candy Dato as Tabitha Baines, Nicole Marie Hunt in a dual role as Pamela Jones and Doctor Michelle Watkins, and Chelsea Renae as Nurse Janice Brooks.
All in all there is no shortage of praise for the work done to bring this story to life. Kudos to the resilience and skill of all involved. This is one that will, hopefully, live on in the hearts and minds of those who see it for years to come.
The Girl with the Red Hair is currently running through November 12th at the Gene Frankel Theater. For more information on the cast, crew, and ticketing, you can visit https://www.thegirlwiththeredhairplay.com/.