Nancy Lee Grahn: Woman Extraordinaire

Performer of the Week 12/03/01
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Applause, Applause
Oustanding performer for the week of Dec. 3
Under the spell of tropical magic (and a little rum) Nancy Lee Grahn's Alexis rolled the dice and ended up literally falling for bad boy Sonny, while he took a tumble of his own for the girl next door.
In Puerto Rico on business, Sonny playfully tried to cajole "coperate nun" Alexis into a night of fun in the casino. While he turned on the sexy charm, she resisted him with everything from defensive body language - chastely clasping her hands in front of her body - to pleas that she didn't even know how to gamble.  Grahn craftily made us wonder: Is Alexis referring to roulette or to letting herself go and enjoying life? But when she finally relented it was clear that she was taking a chance not at the blackjack tables but on Sonny.
Grahn easily establishes Alexis' parameters (not impulsive, all business, and easily thrown off her game by the unexpected) through her tentative actions. In her colorful gown, Alexis was twitchy; her arms flailed. She was unsure of herself and genuinley puzzled when Sonny insisted that she looked beautiful. Grahn expertly depicted a woman uncomfortable with her own looks. After a roulette win, she was frothy and incredulous, greedily sipping rum between gasps for breath. After a slow dance with Sonny, Grahn snapped Alexis' head around, as if coming out if a trance.
Floating outside, she dabbed water on her neck and chest, then turned to face Sonny, her bosom heaving. Now Grahn chose to portray Alexis as playful, rather than suductive. "I like this place. I like how it makes me feel," she admitted, smiling and swaying as if dancing to imaginary music. Grahn at last let Alexis go, let her revel in being impulsive. She leaped into the fountain and splashed Sonny, the whirled until she tumbled into his arms and found herself lost in his eyes.
Grahn personified a woman finally cutting loose. "I stay here," Alexis said hatlingly, as if afraid of the words, afraid of what they said about her, afraid of how she felt. Grahn's giggles were liberating. Her head jerked with newfound energy. But Alexis' old, repressed self still lurked. She asked Sonny, "You're not ready to go to bed are you?" Then aghast at how that sounded, she quickly recanted, "I meant to sleep," pantomiming to underscore the literal definition.
"Wanna dance?" Sonny asked. "I wanna gamble," she replied. Grahn's enigmatic smile was a window into Alexis' thought process. But not thinking is what made the night memorable. And while Alexis took a gamble and won, Grahn's sly, calculated performance left nothing to chance.  - Joe Diliberto

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