Just home from the first of two Theater Experiences on tap for this weekend. Tonight it was to Signature Threater in Arlington, VA were I've recently seen absolutely astounding productions of "West Side Story" and "La Cage Au Faux." This evening is a new work that they are premiering called "Silver Belles". Yes, it has a decidedly Holiday theme. In this case, it's the story of the Matriarch (Oralene) of the Silver Ridge, Tennessee Silver Belles who is struck by lightning while asking God to strike her with inspiration (every one's a critic), and leaves the annual Christmas pageant at the county home for orphaned children in jeopardy--oh no! Can the remaining three members of the ensemble along with the stage manager pull their shit together and create a show? Will her husband snap out of his grief long enough to write another show stopper now that both the music and lyrics are in his hands? And can the Ghost of Oralene find a way to communicate from the great beyond with each of the afore mentioned characters to coax and inspire another successful Holiday show for the benefit of the little orphans? Hmmmm...
As new works in the theater go, I understand that there are a lot hurdles to cross to see an idea to fruition (Ut Oh, he's giving the ol' "It Ain't Easy to Write a Play" speech...) Before my recent experience with Round House Theater's productions of both parts of "Angels In America," I read an amazing account of the journey that iconic work took from inception to production and beyond. I have the good fortune of knowing Maggie (Margaret) Edson and talking with her about the process that took her play "Wit" from an idea to the stage...amazing doesn't begin to describe the process. I have a very strong feeling that "Silver Belles" found an abbreviated version of this road to realization.
It's cute. Some of the lyrics are clever. As a cross between a Prairie Home Companion and the Tuna, Texas trilogy of Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, it's frankly neither! I laughed spontaneously twice and both times cuss words were involved. The cover of the program suggests more humor than the production provides. So what has it got? Sincerity. Uneven, bumpy, at times smaltzy and at others almost endearing sincerity. And from what I can tell, this was only its 4th presentation before an audience, perhaps it will age well and quickly.
What would it have taken for me to have liked it more? The price. It was also too damned expensive. I did not get $79.00 worth of entertainment tonight. And how and why it was extended, before it even opened is a mystery to me, too. And I got no beef with the actors...
|Donna Migliaccio as Oralene ricing from the dead to "take charge" of the untimely situation.|
|Entire ensemble: Peggy Yates (Ruth Ann), Nova Y. Payton (Gloria), Dan Manning (Earl), Donna Migliaccio (Oralene), Ilona Dulaski (Berneice) and Naomi Jacobson (Bo Jack).|
|Naomi Jacobson (Bo Jack) performing her radio show commercial.|
|Nova Y. Payton as Gloria.|
|Ilona Dulaski as Berneice with her taxidermy menagerie...shades of Tuna, Texas.|