August 06, 2010

Deceptively Charming

seerockcity_homepagebanner.jpgIt begins just like those stories your Southern granny used to tell you--soft, slow, and seemingly meandering--but don't let the quiet start fool you. Arlene Hutton's "See Rock City" at Centre Stage is one Appalachian tale that is sure to grab aholt to you.

Justin Walker (Raleigh) and Tara Sweeney (May) play newly weds just returned from honeymooning in the last days of WWII. They are both charming in their roles--sweet without being coy, and funny without being caricatures.

Not that there aren't some delicious stereotypes in the play, particularly the dueling mother-in-laws who sit on the front porch and pretend to be civil with each other. Mary Sparks Gray (Mrs. Brummett) and Kelly Wallace (Mrs. Gill) send sparks flying underneath their "friendly" conversation. But even these ladies know when to reign it in and give their women a heaping dose of humanity. Kudos to director Benjamin P. Robinson for handling his characters lightly and with insight, and to Lesley Preston for a lovely set.

The result is a play not unlike those tarty mother-in-laws: it wins you over with its sweet nostalgia and good feelings, while delivering a pretty mean ole punch. This isn't just a play about "the good old days." Yes, you will laugh, and you may cry (Walker offers up his most moving Greenville performance to date), but you will certainly be challenged by painfully relevant issues: the aftermath of war, gender roles, joblessness, sexism, the definition of family.

And that sweet, slow, meandering beginning? Every one of those rabbit trails tucks neatly--powerfully--back into the plot, and serves as a lesson in and of itself, a lesson to sit quietly and enjoy the rambling scenery, because everything, everything, is valuable in this mixed-up war-torn world.

Arlene Hutton's "See Rock City" Directed by Benjamin P. Robinson. Lights: Lee Hambly. Scene: Lesley Preston. Sound: Alex Brilliandt.
With Mary Sparks Gray (Mrs. Brummett), Tara Sweeney (May), Justin Walker (Raleigh), and Kelly Wallace (Mrs. Gill).

Presented by Centre Stage, 501 River Street, Greenville, SC (864) 233-6733. Through August 21. Tickets $25, with discounts for seniors and students.

Posted by stephanie at August 6, 2010 09:40 AM | TrackBack