STELLA & LOUby Bruce Graham
Directed by Robin Armstrong
Set Design – Clare Floyd DeVries
Lighting Design – John Leach
Costume Design – Robin Armstrong
Properties Design – Kimberlee Cantrell and Sarahi Salazar
Sound Design – David H.M. Lambert
Dramaturg – Dorothy Sanders
Stage Manager – Sara Harris
Lou – John S. Davies
Stella – Lisa Fairchild
Donnie – Eric Wilder
Reviewed Performance: 8/23/2014
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Stella & Lou premiered in 2013 at the Northlight Theatre in Chicago. Directed by B.J. Jones the cast featured Ed Flynn (Donnie), Francis Guinan (Lou), and Rhea Perlman (Stella).
Clare Floyd DeVries did an amazing job setting up this neighborhood bar. With a dart board, TV in the corner, playing a sports game, and sports paraphernalia gracing the walls, the bar was so cozy it was easy to see why the patrons would like it so much. Attention to detail was not lacking including water rings on the well-used tables. The bar itself was fashioned out with four barstools, a worn countertop and an actual working tap. Each of these elements added to the story and the homey feeling Lou had within his bar.
While the bar was the main focus of the play, lighting by John Leach helped round out two other settings in the play, the funeral parlor and outside the bar. The play begins as the bar is closing and Leach’s exterior blue shading helped indicate the darkness outside. During the funeral, the stage lights darken and Donnie is set in a spotlight as he gives the eulogy. The bar itself was illuminated in a yellow tinge representing the dinginess of the old bar.
David H.M. Lambert’s sound design used ringing phones, an air conditioners hum, and locking door click to assist with the story. Timing was critical with each of these, and not one cue was missed.
Director Robin Armstrong assembled a cast that worked well with each other and were perfect for their roles. The energy from the actors had me on the edge of my seat as, because of the close staging area, I was privy to the private conversations of Stella and Lou. Each actor did exceedingly well and made my heart ache and smile as they made decisions that would affect the rest of their lives.
John S. Davies’ portrayal of Lou was outstanding. Lou is a somber, no-nonsense bar owner, desiring to help others. Davies nailed the behavior with hands in his pockets and constant looking at the ground. He showed Lou’s evident unease through wringing hands and heavy sighs. Yet Davies’ skills truly came out when Lou gets angry with the hand he’s been dealt. Davies red face and curt tone rang out through the theater and wrenched at the heart. Davies knew used subtle smiles to show Lou’s grace and dignity in the way he interacted with Donnie. He not only brought Lou to life but gave him dimension that went beyond the script.
Lisa Fairchild portrayed Stella and was the perfect accompaniment to Davies. Stella is a complex character and Fairchild grasped that nicely. Facial expressions from Fairchild varied from sweet, demur smiles to wide-eyed gasps as Stella gauges if the risk they are taking is worth it. Fairchild’s constantly talked with her hands and added beautifully to the uneasiness of the conversation between herself and Lou. Fairchild transitioned Stella’s emotions through her physical stance and her voice. Fairchild was excellent in this role and had me crying with Stella at the end.
Eric Wilder played Donnie, who struggles with grief over the death of a fellow bar patron and the frustration of his fiancée as they plan their wedding. Wilder knew how to accurately portray both of these feelings so they worked in combination with one another. Wilder’s voice was heavy with emotion, and waivered just enough to show the conflict Donnie had over his friend’s death. When Donnie would deal with his fiancée, Wilder’s heavy stomps, clipped tone, and red face resounded his control over her. He played a drunk believably with unsteady steps and slurred words. While a minor role, Wilder deftly showed the importance of Donnie to the relationship between Stella and Lou.
Circle Theatre’s production of Stella & Lou had my emotions in a knot throughout the play as I became invested in the relationship between the two. The production had me questioning if I was putting the necessary effort into my own relationships and whether I was making the most of the time I have been given with the people around me. This play will have you laughing, thinking, and ready for a conversation with your favorite bartender.
230 W. 4th Street
Ft. Worth, TX 76102
Runs through September 20th
**Stella & Lou contains adult language.
Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday-Saturday at 8:00, and Saturday at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $15.00 - $35.00, depending on the day and seating. Students, seniors, military, and groups of ten or more receive a $5.00 discount per ticket. Student rush tickets are half price thirty minutes before curtain time with valid school ID.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.circletheatre.com or call their box office at 817-877-3040.