Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Calculations of Emotion with Uprooted

UPROOTED THEATRE’s staging of REgniald Edmiund’s SOUTH BRIDGE

By Russ Bickerstaff
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For one week only, Uprooted Theatre is staging a heartbreakingly well-rendered premiere of Reginald Edmund’s Southbridge. The show is directed by Marti Gobel. There are only two more performances of the show, but it’s well worth making last minute plans to see this one. It’s brilliant.

The plot plays out as a complex calculation between the desires of an ensemble of characters. They’re all terribly complex people compellingly played by a really good ensemble of actors.

Andrew Parchman plays a man at the center of it all. His name is Christopher but it is also Stranger. He has clairvoyance. He can see into people’s pasts by looking into their eyes…sometimes sees the future as well. This is a tragic thing for ANYONE to have to deal with, but for a black man in the late 19th century it’s positively life-threatening. Parchman has a dazzling intensity about him that works in both surreal and earthbound drama. This role wouldn’t work with anything less than that kind of talent. Parchman has taken smaller roles in ensemble productions before. It’s truly satisfying to see him in something more prominent here.

Toni Martin plays Christopher’s wife. She’s got a fiery strength and determination about her. She has sacrificed much to be with Stranger and that sacrifice shows through in the sweetest ways in the rapport both actors have onstage. Thee are some really tender moments that feel remarkably visceral in the intimate studio theatre at the bBroadway Theatre Center.

Terrance Kingby plays Ed Berry—a man with a dream who gets mixed up in things. He’s a black man in the late 19th century looking to start up his own hotel in Ohio. So it’s going to be uphill work for him. His ambition drives Christopher. Kingby’s performance hits a nice crescendo when he’s playing the character in an inebriated state. It’s a cleverly rendered performance that brings out both sympathy and disgust.

Marcella Kearns is anther actress who seldom gets roles close enough to the center of the stage. It was nice to see her in Gorgons with Renaissance earlier this season, but that was comedy. Here she’s playing a very, very complex personality. A widow with a tragic past who is tragically lonely. At first she’s reluctant to hire Christopher for labor aroundthe house, but in time she comes to enjoy his company. This isn’t Driving Miss Daisy, though. This is much, much, much darker. It’s actually a very haunting performance. Kearns brings out so many different details in the widow’s personality that it becomes very, very difficult to love her OR hate her.

T. Stacy Hicks rounds out the cast as a small town Sheriff who manipulates his way through town. The challenge here is to play someone who looks very much like a paper-thin villain waxing a moustache for so much of the play. He’s actually terribly complicated, but Edmund doesn’t really get into that all that early into the play as he is so busy developing the rest of the ensemble. Hicks’ challenge is to keep the character sympathetic enough through the early going of the play to keep us sympathetic to him when the whole thing explodes after intermission. Hicks’ tackles that challenge expertly in a performance that balances things out beautifully.

Uprooted’s one-week production of Southbridge closes March 18th. Its next event is a staged reading of David Mamet’s Oleanna. The reading, which features Marti Gobel and Joseph Hanreddy, is listed both on the Uprooted website and Brown Paper Tickets.com as taking place on April 23rd at the 10th street theatre. 

 

 

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