“Radiunt Abundunt” made its world premiere on Friday, Feb. 26 at Triad Stage. Created by Triad Stage’s Artistic Director, Preston Lane, and musician Laurelyn Dossett, “Radiunt Abundunt” is a hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking play. Through incredible performances by an all-female cast and musical ensemble, “Radiunt Abundunt” challenges and explores concepts of family and the meaning of art. “Radiunt Abundunt” was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“Radiunt Abundunt” is set in North Carolina, taking audience members back and forth between a college campus and the “Valley,” a fictional setting deep in the Appalachian Mountains. These two very different settings juxtapose the pompous world of academia with a world where proper spelling, grammar and “fancy words” are of little importance.
The Valley contains an abundance of pieces of cardboard with child-like paintings of gruesome, Biblical-inspired images by a homeless woman who calls herself “Mother Radiunce” (Kate Goehring). Mother Radiunce keeps the paintings — which she calls her “sermons” and are based on her religious visions — nailed to trees in the Valley, where she lives with her “disciple,” drug addict Sparrow Hawke (Lisa Kitchens).
When Professor Karen Findley-Ives (Beth Ritson) stumbles upon The Valley and sees the paintings, she hails Mother Radiunce as an outsider artist, which is a term that describes someone who lives outside of cultural boundaries and creates work that cannot be easily defined. Outsider artists are not formally trained and are not influenced by the institutional art world. Findley-Ives becomes determined to make Mother Radiunce known to art scholars and collectors.
Mother Radiunce’s long-lost sister Scottie (Dori Legg) and daughter Grace Ann (Lizzie Wouters) try to keep Findley-Ives from making efforts to get Mother Radiunce recognition in the art world. While Findley-Ives sees the art as visionary, Scottie and Grace Ann see it as a sinister reminder of Mother Radiunce’s dark, secret past.
As the play goes on, Mother Radiunce’s mental illness gradually worsens. The face of Myra White (Madalynn Poulson), a medical professional who works with Mother Radiunce in a psychiatric hospital, also becomes the subject of Mother Radiunce’s increasingly horrifying visions.
The play covers a variety of intense themes, including the role art plays in situations that involve mental illness, addiction, religion and family. It also explores the role of the artist, the meaning of art and what inspires it. In this case, something tragic and dark — which Mother Radiunce says is her “call,” — inspires her art. Findley-Ives reflects on her own call, or purpose in life, and wonders who or what it is that does the calling.
At many points throughout the performance, it encourages the audience to consider that viewers of art are also artists, as they create their own meaning for it based on their own background and experiences. Every piece of art has infinite, wide-ranging meanings.
Each member of the cast put on a performance that was heartbreaking, terrifying, hilarious and everything in between. They kept the audience deeply engrossed in a gripping story full of surprises and intriguing themes.
The music of “Radiunt Abundunt” was composed by Laurelyn Dossett. Dossett performed it along with members of the Americana band, The Buck Stops Here, which includes Shona Carr, Gailanne Amundsen and Julie Chiles. The musicians took on the role of a contemporary Greek chorus, as they came on stage in between certain scenes to comment on the dramatic action through vocal and string instrumental music. The songs beautifully demonstrate Dossett’s songwriting talent and blend perfectly with the story.
At first, the set seemed bland, as everything was a solid grey. However, as the story went on, projection and skillful lighting provided audience members with the illusion of a work of art being painted right onto the set. The masterful scene, light and projection work — which was under the direction of Anya Klepikov, Jiyoun Chang and Nicholas Hussong, respectfully — included beautifully unexpected details and added an element of magic to the play.
“Radiunt Abundunt” is the sixth play Preston Lane and Laurelyn Dossett have written together. The duo is known for pushing boundaries in the performing arts, but this play, in particular, is meant to be a departure from their previous works. In the Director’s Note, Lane explains that he found inspiration for the play during a trip he took after having a stroke. He goes on in the note to describe details of his journey and to explain that the play reflects his concerns about the loss of authenticity in theatre.
“Radiunt Abundunt” will run at Triad Stage through March 13. It is an excellent production with a “radiunt” story and “abundunt” talent.