Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Director - Christopher Adams
Stage Manager - Chris Buras
Set Design - Christopher Adams
Set Construction - John Damian, Tom Moore
Scenic Painter - Skylar Chastain
Lighting Design - John Damian, Sr.
Sound Design - Christopher Adams
Costumes - Connie Salsman, Alisa Dunn, Dorothy Jackson
Props - Amanda Henderson, Christopher Adams
Tood - Rebecca Lodge
Sybil - Stephanie Fischer
Weetsie - Tess Moore
Aunt Ola - Sooze Johnson
Kate - Amber Quinn
Addie Mae - Amanda Henderson
Tommy - Jacob Sanders
Reviewed Performance 4/22/2012
Reviewed by Danny Macchietto, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
R.T. Robinson is a damn crafty playwright. The opening of his The Cover of Life suggests it will be a fish out of water comedy and elicits laughter to this avail. It slowly morphs into sporadic scattered memory pieces that would make Tennessee Williams proud. Written letters are shared with the audience that have a certain poetic flair, wonderfully lit and moody. By Act II it has become an enticing hybrid between a full-fledged, political call to arms think piece and an emotional melodrama. This is all exciting to watch unfold, because it is so effectively staged by director Christopher Adams.
Robinson's The Cover of Life may as well be Adams' The Cover of Life. For all intensive purposes those two names could be interchangeable for this production by Greater Lewisville Community Theatre.
Mr. Adams guides lovely performances from his leading actresses and pulls off the difficult task of putting his stamp on a play by seemingly putting no stamp at all. Adams doesn't let you see him sweat. He opts for the less showy and graceful route by allowing the playwright's dialogue and story wash over his audience. He stages the scenes organically and never allows the blocking to steal focus. Mr. Robinson pulls triple-duty, being the show's set designer and sound designer, too. He coordinates well with Lighting Designer John Damian, Sr. allowing scene transitions to continue the flow and rhythm of the previous scene and segue effortlessly to the next.
The story unfolds over several weeks in September of 1943 at the home of the Clifford boys in small town Sterlington, Louisiana. With one exception, we never get to meet the Clifford men, but their presence is felt throughout. They enlisted in the military on the same day and already off at war.
This is not a story about the men, but about their wives. They recently moved in with the men's mother to make ends meet. They call her "Aunt Ola". Tood, Sybil, and Weetsie could not be any different.
Weetsie would love nothing more than to carry on the family legacy of traditional values. Sybil is "modern". Tood is the most progressive, but tied down to the obligations of her present situation. Kate Miller, a journalist for Life Magazine, is assigned to write a special human interest cover story about them. It will be a "women's piece" as her boss calls it.
The solid number of convincing performances is a generous one. They are, and in no particular order, as follows:
Stephanie Fischer (Sybil) - Ms. Fischer has a commanding and engaging presence, but she never steals focus away from her female counterparts.
Sybil makes repeated references to being a "modern" woman. Ms. Fischer makes the audience aware that Sybil's modernity is her cross to bear. Her character peels away surprising layers as the show progresses. Scripturally, in the second act, her letter writing monologues to her husband run the risk of going too far into melodrama, but she dials it back just enough to keep you interested without feeling uncomfortable. When her emotional outbreak crescendos to the penultimate line - "Where the hell are my dreams?" it breaks your heart.
Rebecca Lodge (Tood) - The pathos of Tood catch one by surprise. At the beginning of the show it seems that Tood is meant to be support for a story centered more on Sybil. Ms. Lodge is both comfortable with blending into the background, as well as taking center stage. She possesses dogged determination and a cheerfully scrappy demeanor. Tood's plight for independence away from her family is the one that viewers will relate to the most, because Ms. Lodge is so committed with her earnest and vulnerable spirit.
Tess Moore (Weetsie) - Weetsie is the cheerful one and the least willing to rock the boat of the three sisters. Ms. Moore is natural in her role and plays an excellent foil to her two other sisters. Weetsie masks herself with her pluck and charm and in one dramatic highpoint it was startling to watch the actress convey other shades as she confronts Sybil. It is a mean and dark showdown, but an exchange well-played by Ms. Moore, as well as Ms Fischer.
Sooze Johnson (Aunt Ola) - Sooze Johnson is a generous supporting actress. With a background in improvisatory comedy, she is loose and unhinged in her scenes. It is a joy to watch her, especially as she gives Addie Mae her final comeuppance. Ms. Johnson has the most honest, sincere line of the play: "Why did I let those boys think their Daddy can do no wrong?" She utters this so matter-of-factly that it exemplifies her good taste as an actress, as one with lesser experience would have certainly played up the drama.
Amber Quinn (Kate) - Kate Miller is the observer of these lives. The story is told through her eyes and memory. Ms. Quinn maintains a perfect balance of grace and tactlessness, nostalgia and bitterness. She is very convincing relaying to the audience how substantial her encounters with the Clifford wives were. Equally impressive is her dexterity to handle the fast talking opening passages with aplomb, as well as the tenderness the second act requires of her.
Amanda Henderson (Addie Mae) - Addie Mae is the comic relief of this production. She is serviceable in her role as the town gossip and gives her scenes an infusion of energy that levels out the ebb and flow of such a serious piece. One minor distraction is how she pantomimes peeping in on a conversation as if it was far away from her, when in fact she is simply two feet away.
Jacob Sanders (Tommy) - Jacob Sanders plays the lone male in this production as husband to Tood. It is a tricky role to play. His character must represent how charming the Clifford brothers are, as well as be the amalgam of the typical man of that era. Mr. Sanders has charm to spare as Tommy and is particularly sympathetic in the letter writing scenes he shares with his wife, Tood.
When the blackout closed out the show and the curtain call had passed I was left sitting in my chair convinced that I had seen what Aristotle's Poetics would call the "well-made play".
THE COVER OF LIFE
Greater Lewisville Community Theate, 160 W. Main Street
Lewisville, TX 75057
Limited run through May 6th
Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $12
To purchase tickets call 972-221-SHOW (7469)
For information go to www.glct.org