Pistarckle Theater is to be commended for giving an opportunity to a local playwright Stacey Bryan, whose name is not among the familiar in the theater world at large, to have her play produced.
A collaborative effort, according to resident director Frank Bartolucci, among playwright Bryan, actors, director and designers, involved some rewriting and finding the dramatic arc, allowed a fuller realization of what Bartolucci said he hoped was Bryan’s vision.
The production certainly pleased the audience.
Bryan successfully combined the voices of St. Thomas with authentic humor, dialect, homespun wisdom, and pathos. Nowhere was this more evident than in veteran actor Christina Harper’s rendition of Granny — spot-on in every respect.
The children were refreshingly children. Especially notable was the performance of Auriana Gerald, a 9-year-old making her debut as the young Josephine. She appeared as at home on the stage as many veteran actors.
Chasda Clendinen-Seipel as the adult Josephine gave a consistently outstanding performance throughout the show. The playwright skillfully had the young Josephine “appear” to the adult Josephine in a poignant scene advising the adult and again at the end of the play to approve the adult’s resolution of her conflict concerning self-esteem, guilt, and life choices.
Granny reinforced these themes and the role of God in our lives in a strong dialogue with the adult Josephine. Essential truths revealed and spoken resonated with the audience. Perhaps these two scenes would have sufficed to convey the message.
A third scene involving Josephine’s conflict did not ring true. The character, Dr. Thompson, made a house call and appeared to be a psychiatrist or psychologist to the adult Josephine. The awkwardness of this scene inheres in the uncharacteristic advice given to Josephine; normally therapists draw the root problem and resolution of it from their patients rather than telling them. If the story needs this analysis, perhaps Dr. Thompson should be presented as a minister rather than a therapist.
Particularly strong performances were rendered by Larry Bryant as Warren, the unfaithful boyfriend of Josephine, and Richard Norman as Evan, the loving, faithful suitor.
Humor abounded in the scene between Evan and Josephine’s friends, hilariously performed by Laurel Brown as Jasmine, (thanks for finding the courage to make your debut) and Jennifer Dubois as Lisette.
Bryan is to be encouraged to continue making her stories into plays. She manages to touch so many familiar and universal chords when conveying this wisdom of her grandmother. Given the enthusiasm of the audience and the talent of Bryan, more original plays of local authors should be encouraged.