Theater Review: Urbanite’s Naming True

Dennis Maley
SARASOTA — In her third play, local actor and playwright Natalie Symons has struck theatrical gold with an intense and timely work that stays with the audience long after the proverbial curtain has dropped.

Urbanite Theatre in downtown Sarasota has clearly matured from an interesting experiment into a major player in the regional theater world, and Symons’ Naming True is perhaps the best evidence of the synergy that has been created by providing a platform for cutting edge productions that draw young and talented creatives to its stage.

Directed by rising star Daniel Kelly, who cut his teeth as an assistant director for the Asolo Rep and has already scored hits for Urbanite while directing productions of Lungs (review) and My Barking Dog (review), Naming True is a gripping and intense 80 minutes of top-shelf theater for which Kelly once again has the cast firing on all cylinders.
Minka Wiltz. Photo by Don Daly
Nell is a down and out semi-homeless woman who’s made it from the streets of East Detroit to a rundown Florida motel room that seems like the end of the line. She’s obsessed with self-publishing an e-book memoir but is deeply disturbed when Amy, a rep from the publishing company, comes all the way from Seattle to pay her a surprise visit after a drunken phone call Nell doesn’t recall making.

Amy is a transgendered woman whose late mother put her on a reality television show in order to pay for medical treatment that would prevent her from hitting puberty as a male, only to become a scorned pop culture reference.

Urbanite insisted on casting a transgendered actor for the role, and after an exhaustive national casting call landed Alexia Jasmene, a Chicago-based actor/poet/musician/stand-up who brings an obvious authenticity to a very central aspect of the character.
Alexia Jasmene and Minka Wiltz. Photo by Don Daly.
Opposite Jasmene, is Atlanta-based Minka Wiltz who sets the stage on fire with a fierce intensity rarely seen even in high-drama. Wiltz’s Nell is so believable that the portrayal asks literally nothing from the audience in terms of willful suspension of disbelief.

Becki Leigh of Asolo Rep does her typically-flawless job of outfitting the actors in perfect digs, while Jeffrey Webber creates a picture-perfect dingy motel room set that could be any one of the low-end flops that are omnipresent in certain parts of town from here to Clearwater.
Alexia Jasmene and Minka Wiltz. Photo by Brendan Ragan.
Naming True is a genuine triumph of local theater. If there’s any justice it will quickly fan out to larger markets where it can be further appreciated. Urbanite’s production runs through July 2. Visit their website for more information.