In my idea of a perfect world, I see a show every week. Sometimes, that’s not possible because it’s one of those rare weeks when every theatre I try to cover is on hiatus. More often, I need to be in three places at once and choices have to be made, as in, I choose to see a show rather than stay home.
Such was last weekend. The short verdict: One Very Good show, One Pretty Good show and one Pretty Bad one. Unfortunately – because I’m the type of person who likes to get the worst chore, the worst thing on a list over first, saving the sweet reward of something enjoyable for last – this weekend of theatre lined up exactly like that – I went from Good to Bad. Not good.
First up: The Savannah Sipping Society at Newnan Theatre Company. This was a light-hearted, oh so easy to swallow ensemble piece in which four middle aged woman at loose ends and fresh starts come together to support each other. They have various adventures – so they can ‘try new things’ and try on new outfits for us; like going salsa dancing or to a Medieval fair. They go on first dates and see old husbands, and every scene has a featured beverage. Like mead, after the Fair, for example. Scenes are knit together with one of the ladies stepping out to tell us, through monologue, just what happened after the latest experiment in better living. Light, lovely, ultimately uplifting.
But here’s the thing: One of my plays is called The (former) Prostitutes Potluck Supper. It’s a lighthearted look at some middle aged women at loose ends, working towards a fresh start, who come together every month for a potluck supper. Through the course of the year and the play, a newcomer to the group leads them through various adventures and new outfits. Each scene has a featured dish, revealed by one of the ladies stepping out to tell us, through monologue, just how it happens to be there. Ultimately uplifting – I hope. So IT WAS HARD to sit there and enjoy this play because I couldn’t help but wonder, WHO THE HELL saw my play and used it to structure this one? I should also note The Savannah Sipping Society is written by an ensemble, Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, but I don’t know what that means. No, I don’t know them but my script is out there, making the rounds. Oh well. We know what they say about imitation.
The show itself? Well, it WAS fun. The jokes were all about a million years old, none of them original but they worked as used here. The set was divine. NTC has a secret weapon in the guise of their new set designer Faith Farrell; she’s a gem. The ladies – Jennifer McCrary, Kelly Banks, Louisa Grant and Michelle Mason – all had fun up there, playing with each other and took us along for the ride. Kelly Banks has a sweet gravitas that lent a steadiness to the group as a widow but it was Louisa Grant who pretty much stole the show with her down home portrayal of the jilted Marlafaye, a Texas transplant. If I have one complaint – other than the aforementioned – it was that a show set in Savannah, with ‘Savannah’ in the title, should have used that wonderful and unique city more to advantage. This show and these ladies could have been anywhere, and it felt like a waste of a great town.
So, it was time well spent – that was the Very Good Show.
The next day I sashayed over to tiny Tyrone and Legacy Theatre, for SHOUT! No plot, no story, just five ‘groovy’ gals swinging through the 1960’s. I should have arrived earlier because the pre-show featured a giant screen and a fabulous montage of the decade. Me and all the other gray heads in the audience nodded and sang along and it was a great trip down memory lane. The choreography was terrific, the costumes mod and I didn’t hate it that the loosely tied together ‘scenes’ ultimately had a very nice feminist message. Because this was a song and dance musical and not much else, much depended on the voices. Sad to say, there were two very good ones, one pretty good one, and one that was not. Not good. But the show moved fast enough, the songs were popular enough and there was just enough to watch and enjoy that we didn’t mind, too much.
And finally, on Sunday, I grabbed the husband, promised him dinner and we headed up to Hapeville to see Academy Theatre’s On Golden Pond. If you’re old enough, like us, you’ll remember the wonderful movie version of this wonderful play by Ernest Thompson; it starred Kate Hepburn and Henry Fonda (in his last role) and was utterly delightful as well as ultimately moving. I loved it as a young woman – as an old one, it’s even more profound because it’s all about growing older with grace and dignity. I was excited to see this production since I’ve never seen it onstage.
Oh boy. When the curtains parted, he and I looked at each other. I do think this was the worst set I’ve set eyes on in a long time. Liam Irwin is created with Set Design. Well, Sir, this was a poor job. Walls were uneven, poorly placed. Why in the world did you choose to continue the set past the curtains – if the curtains can’t be drawn back far enough to be out of sight? Color choices and a lack of appropriate decoration did nothing to make us believe this was a vintage lakehouse. Lighting was equally inexcusable – jerky fades, actors standing on stage in an awkward ‘freeze’ while they waited for long long beats for the lights to finally, mercifully go down.
My husband later said ‘there was one good actor in that cast’ and I guess I agree with him. Mary Anne Brannon as Ethel tried hard but she had nothing to work off. NO ONE was listening to anyone. And Steve Martin – or perhaps the director Rob Raissle – needs to be spanked for doing nothing but imitating Henry Fonda. The one good actor? Thomas Cage, in the all too small part of Bill Ray; he knew what he was doing. He listened.
For the record, I try and find the positive in every show I see and discuss here. I really do. My goal in this website and blog is to promote the arts on the southside of Atlanta. But I’d be lying if I said this was a good production; it wasn’t. I have nothing but the highest respect for Academy’s efforts. They deserve the highest praise for building a theatre program – not to mention a fine theatre – in Hapeville. But this show did not serve them well.
He and I left at halftime, and went to dinner.