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Anna (Dana Seghesio) is intrigued by an intimate embrace between Rebecca (Michelle Maxson) and Sam (Skyler Cooper).

Review – ‘Swallow’ at Main Stage West

Jan 16, 2019
by Alexa Chipman


‘Swallow’ is an eccentric, captivating experience. Scottish playwright Stef Smith uses first-person narration, which is rather like hearing a book read aloud. It is odd at first, but once settled, the style is mesmerizing, filling in small details like smells and the quiet beauty of drifting snow. It is especially fascinating to hear characters reacting to each other with astute observations.

Sam (Skyler Cooper) and Rebecca (Michelle Maxson) share a moment.

Sam (Skyler Cooper) is caught between the excitement of accepting that he finds true fulfillment as a man, rather than as Samantha, and society’s angry rejection of that identity. Cooper projects a warm personality and genuine kindness in a poignant, moving performance.

After believing she found “the one,” Rebecca (Michelle Maxson) had her future planned, only to find herself dumped in the full view of a restaurant. Her deeply felt sense of worthlessness leaves her downing bottles of wine and too depressed to find joy in anything, until Sam’s friendly aura slowly dispels the clouds.

Anna (Dana Seghesio) creates a nest inside her flat to heal and protect.Wild-eyed Anna (Dana Seghesio) has not left her apartment in months and spends her time feverishly ripping apart the interior to create fantastical artistic endeavors. Anna’s wild rant of her perceived sins, listing humanity’s failings throughout history, resonates with haunting precision. The daily news is filled with horrifying realities, like children separated from their parents and caged up; it is easy to internalize the resulting guilt. Seghesio’s shivering monologue of faults is compelling in its erratic, agitated delivery.

Rebecca, Sam and Anna drift in and out of each other’s lives through simultaneous action onstage. Missy Weaver’s lighting design and clear, well-crafted direction maintain a balance that alleviates the constant shifting back and forth between locations, enabling the audience to easily follow multiple storylines. Whether meeting at a café or whispering through mail slots, interactions between the three are infused with nervous energy as they journey to achieve positive self-awareness.

Friendship blossoms between Anna (Dana Seghesio) and Rebecca (Michelle Maxson).

Pent-up emotions are expressed with cathartic destruction—a phone, mirror and TV are enthusiastically smashed, through Matthew E. Jones’ explosive sound design. “I have a PhD in picking myself apart” Sam remarks. Despite self-deprecating tendencies, the characters push toward a conscious decision to choose life.

‘Swallow’ is a dynamic exploration of acceptance despite an arduous, painful struggle. Its unique style and outstanding cast fuse into a brilliant production at Main Stage West.


Presented by Main Stage West through January 27, 2019
Thur/Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 5:00pm
Tickets: $30 general, $25 senior, $15 student

Main Stage West
104 North Main Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-0177

Photos by Eric Chazankin

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