DIVIDING THE ESTATEBy Horton Foote
Dallas Theater Center
Artistic Director-Kevin Moriarty
Managing Director-Heather M Kitchen
Scenic Design-Akin Babatunde
Costume Design-Claudia Stephens
Lighting Design-Matthew Richards
Sound Design-Bruce Richardson
Wig Design-Dave Bova
Production Manager-Jeff Gifford
Stage Manager-Kathryn Davies
Mildred: Liz Mikel
Son: Matthew Gray
Lucille: Gail Cronauer
Stella Gordon: June Squibb
Cathleen: Tiffany Mann
Doug: Akin Babatunde
Lewis Gordon: Kurt Rhoads
Pauline: Lynn Blackburn
Mary Jo: Nance Williamson
Emily: Emily Habeck
Sissie: Kristin Frantz
Bob: Kieran Connolly
Irene Ratliff: Katherine Bourne
Reviewed Performance: 3/23/2011
Reviewed by Shelley Kaehr, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
smackdown, Dividing the Estate, is an evening of entertainment you won't want to miss. Foote is known for populating his world with colorful characters and kudos go out to casting director Lee Trull for finding the right people to play every part.
Of particular note was uber-talented June Squibb who played the part of Stella and Gail Cronauer as Lucille. I cannot imagine better acting that this!
The audience was moved to tears by the heartfelt performance of Akin Babatunde as Doug. At the end of the first act when Doug tearfully relives the day he found out about his father's death and then died himself, an eruption of sniffles and sobs filled the auditorium and, when the lights came up, many patrons, including myself and the people next to me had trouble drying their eyes to get to the concession stand.
Foote's work is always timely and never more so than in this production. Discussions of bank foreclosures, devalued real estate and a family who must shift their prior materialistic ways to adjust to the downed economy sound like something from the daily newscast in our present day. The discussions about whether or not to sell oil and mineral rights reminded me of some of our local battles with the Barnett Shale.
Kurt Rhodes' turn as drunken brother Kurt was hilarious and Nance Williams, as the materialistic Mary Jo, stole many a scene during her many tirades and panic attacks over her lack of finances.
Director Joel Ferrell did a brilliant job directing a complex piece. As with many Foote productions, simultaneous discussions between different sets of characters brings a feeling of tremendous realism to the program. We've all had those family meals where awkward things are happening, and the superior direction brought those memories into the minds of many of the audience members I spoke to.
I happened to sit next to a teacher from James Madison High School who brought several of his drama students to the performance. He showed me the supplemental materials he was given by theater staff and the study guides for students to help lead discussions about the program. How timely they are learning about such things as the meaning of estate tax, executor of a will, the difference between owning and renting and what it means to have a mortgage. I've long been a believer we need to do more in the school system to teach these basic fundamentals to our kids. Leave it to the theater to once again be on the cutting edge of education.
Dividing the Estate had one of the most elaborate and stunningly decorated sets I've seen in years, thanks to the mastery of John Arnone and crew. A crystal chandelier served as the centerpiece to huge Corinthian columns, pastel oriental rugs and gorgeous antique furnishings which made you believe you were in an old grand estate.
Costuming was artfully done as well, under the leadership of Claudia Stephens. Particularly at the end when the youthful Irene comes to visit the estate after getting off work at Whataburger. Her clothes were only upstaged by the blue neon eye shadow purposefully applied in the least tasteful manner possible. The audience burst into laughter at the sight of her.
Dividing the Estate is on until April 9th as part of the ongoing D/FW Foote Festival and is well worth the time!
Wyly Theatre, Potter Rose Performance Hall
Dallas TX 72015
Plays through April 9th
Tickets are from $15 to $100 with Pay What You Can purchases one week before a performance. Thursday, March 31st and April 7th matinees are $20.
Tuesday ? Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Thursday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm.
Visit www.dallastheatercenter.org to order or call 214-880-0202.