ArtsCenter Stage’s production of Redbird, a festival of one-act plays by North Carolina playwrights, is comprised of three plays at one performance and two plays at another performance. You may see all five or any combination. None of the plays are related to each other, aside from all being authored in this state. Four are adaptations from other Tarheel authors’ writings.
Jane Holding adapted one of the five novellas from Allan Gurganus’ recent book, Lost Souls to stage and performs as Jean Mulray in the single actor play “Saints Have Mothers,” directed by Tamara Kissane. It is a brutal narrative about the doings of Mulray’s precious daughter Caitlin, which avoids any reference to an actual relationship with the child. The piece is compelling; however, Holding could have been less distant as an actress, if not as the character.
“Linnaeus Forgets” by Marianne Gingher and Debby Seabrooke, adapted from the story by Fred Chappell, tells of Carolus Linnaeus’ discovery of a universe of sexual promiscuity residing in a never-before-seen plant. The play has a lot of fun with the father of modern taxonomy, and his binomial system, in which he used the names of associates eponymously, sometimes viciously. You’ll learn a bit you didn’t get in your high school botany class.
Linnaeus is admirably played by Tom Marriott; and his wife, the winsome Frau Linnaeus, is delightfully brought to us by Lenore Field. Jimmy Magoo manages and voices The Puppet Seigesbeck, and Greg Hohn plays Viktor Blomgren as well as directs.
Nancy Peacock’s book, Life Without Water is adapted by Michael A. Smith into a memoir of hippy relationships in the 1960s and 1970s. Cedar, telling the story, is enacted by Jane Allen Wilson, who appeared much younger than what her current age should be. Her mother, Sarah is well played by Marcia Edmundson, showing a maturity since Sarah’s days as a flower child. Tom Marriott directs.
“Property“, a wryly titled work, with several meanings of that word at play, is written and directed by Dana Coen, who keeps the pace up and the action taut. Well performed by Brandon Rafalson as Isaiah, Alex Thompson as Barry, and Melanie Rio as Priscilla, the story is of a couple that retreats from the dog-eat-dog business world to establish an agrarian life in northern Washington state, and discovers abruptly that their newly purchased land is suitable only for sheep herding.
Isaiah, a local looking to establish his own herd insinuates himself into Barry and Priscilla’s lives, leading to a hazardous confrontation. The actors are exceptionally good, the tensions are gripping, and the emotions are real and apparent.
Jade Arnold, whose star we have been happy to watch soar over the past couple of years, wows us with his performance as Abraham Galloway in David Cecelski’s “The Fire of Freedom,” adapted to stage by Howard L. Craft. Galloway appears through a trap door in the stage, representing the New Bern attic of free black abolitionist Mary Ann Starkey, where he will address a gathering of potential black soldiers in the Union Army. The year is 1863, the year of the Emancipation Proclamation, and he precedes an agent from the President whose purpose is to persuade the audience to enlist. Arnold’s performance is a tour de force, with Shakespearean dramatics.
Arnold is costumed, by Marissa Erickson, in gentleman’s attire and an elegant coif, with Colt .44 Navy pistol and Bowie knife, both of which he displays his ability and willingness to use. Director Chaunesti Webb has provided this fine actor an animated routine, and Arnold’s performance delivers totally.
An excellent set by Rob Hamilton serves all five plays solidly, and video designer Joseph Amodei splays images across the set that enhance the atmosphere of each of them. Sound designers and composers Juliet Kaplan, Tom Guild, and Sam Gingher contribute incidental musical support and off-stage sounds. Lighting designer Elizabeth Droessler creates a fine storm and select moods through the shows.
Either way you see these shows, you will appreciate both the literary talent of the State of North Carolina and thank the powers that be at The ArtsCenter for producing this festival and finding these entertaining performers.
SECOND OPINION: March 18th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded “The Fire of Freedom” 4 of 5 stars and “Property” 3.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/must-see-plays-at-the-artscenter-and-deep-dish-theater-dispel-the-fog-of-war/Content?oid=4359139 and March 11th mini-preview by Brian Howe: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/redbird-one-act-play-festival/Event?oid=4321902; March 16th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article14573003.html; March 15th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7321 and March 14th review by Spencer Powell: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7320; and March 14th Durham, NC Five Points Star review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://thefivepointsstar.com/2015/03/14/oh-little-redbird-bright-new-plays-at-artscenter-stage/ and March 13th preview by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://thefivepointsstar.com/2015/03/13/the-redbird-flies-tonight-from-the-artscenter-stage/.
ArtsCenter Stage presents REDBIRD: ONE-ACT PLAY FESTIVAL BY N.C. WRITERS at 8 p.m. March 20, 3 and 8 p.m. March 21, and 3 p.m. March 22 in the Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater at The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina 27510.
BOX OFFICE: 919-929-2787 or http://www.etix.com/. in the Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina 27510.
VENUE: http://www.artscenterlive.org/, https://www.facebook.com/artscenterlive, and https://twitter.com/ArtsCenterlive.
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.