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Battson's `Obsession' monologue is brilliant

Performance is honest, fearless, from the heart

Few actors can make a one-hour monologue bearable, much less a pleasure. Jill Battson is a delightful exception to this rule. Battson's original monologue, "486-8474 Or: How I Learned to Live With Obsession," is nothing short of brilliant. Add to this Battson's heartfelt performance, and one has theater at its best.

"486-8474" is a quirky rendition of the all too familiar theme of romantic obsession. The story begins with Jill, playing herself, listening to an ancient answering machine message from her former lover, Louis. We then learn that Jill and Louis met as neighbors on a Toronto street. Their relationship slowly escalated from acquaintances, to a casual fling, to Jill being obsessed with Louis. As with most romantic obsessions, Jill's ardor was not shared by the object of her desire. In the end, Jill moved to the Southwest - Taos, no less - to escape her obsession with Louis.

Battson's crisp tone and enunciation are easy on the ears. Her voice is expressive and a joy to experience. Her delivery is expressive and remarkably honest.

However, Battson's mannerisms are a bit affected. She cocks her head at an odd angle and repeatedly flings her arms about in a stilted manner. Battson made excellent use of the Riverside Theatre's small stage.

The true power of Battson's performance lies in her emotional fearlessness. No stone is left unturned as Jill drives us down the twisted road of her ill-fated romance with Louis. Intimate personal feelings are shared discretely, but without hesitation.

One feels as though one is sitting in Jill's living room, a friend lending a caring ear to a comrade. The lighting created a decidedly cheerful yet honest atmosphere. Jill's spirit is buoyant, and the light design captures her integrity of feeling beautifully.

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The set is perfect. Jill has a chair and a side table - no overly fussy or unnecessary props could be found. Most stunning were the three large portraits of her obsession, clear yet shrouded by light and muslin cloth. The ghost of Louis haunted the show's set as well as Battson's performance.

Sadly, the Riverside was a one weekend stop for "486-8474." With a bit of luck, however, Jill Battson will continue to perform her marvelous piece at a new venue.

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