BWW Review: Mèlange Theatre Company Debuts SAINT SOMEBODY
Rita Anderson's new play premiered with Mèlange Theatre Company last week at Trinity Street Theatre. The fascinating story is worthy of notice by any audience interested in American history or the human struggles that face us all.
Set during the Civil War, SAINT SOMEBODY deals with the Union Irish Brigade that has more than its share of human drama outside of the war itself. During the Battle of Gettysburg an African-American soldier, Frederick D (Matrex Kilgore), is brought into the camp by Mulligan (Nate Dunaway), wounded, starving and desperate to remain hidden. He quickly gains the trust of nurse Eileen (Madison Murrah) while her direct superior, Erin (Erin Uma Olsen) greets him with disdain. Together with Mulligan, they agree to hide the injured man and tend to him in secret. This stranger carries with him the statue of a saint, which saint, he doesn't know, he just knows her as 'Saint Somebody'. We meet the no nonsense Sister Kathleen (Johanna Whitmore) who rules the roost with an iron fist and serves as a foil for the drunken brigade commander, the Colonel (Aaron Black). The drama between the characters plays out in a style that is more reminiscent of film than the stage. In short scenes that move from location to location around the camp. The action can seem choppy with numerous elaborate scene changes with multiple set pieces. While the plot line is compelling and the dialogue well written one particular historical inaccuracy bothered both myself and my companion enough that we looked up the facts as we left the theatre. Being a history geek is sometimes a drawback when it comes to viewing plays or movies; I am extremely picky and I often beg forgiveness for my attention to the smallest detail.
Christina J. Moore's direction is excellent when it concerns the acting, but the scene changes were awkwardly blocked and interrupted both the flow of the acting and affected the fluidity of the storytelling. I realize that I saw the show very early in the run and this may have smoothed quite a bit since opening. Giving a natural feel to moving a flat or setting a bed on stage is darn near impossible, kudos to the cast for a valiant effort. Natalie George's lighting design looks beautiful in one of the most challenging spaces to illuminate in Austin. The sound design by John Michael Hoke is multi-layered and very well produced. Pam Friday's costume design is period perfect and well executed. The entire cast is outstanding, all are wonderful in their roles and worthy of further praise. It is always a treat to see Johanna Whitmore grace the stage. Her command of the role is wonderful, she gives Sister Kathleen depth and a wicked twinkle in her eye. Matrex Kilgore gives us a heartfelt performance as Frederick D. He gives an underlying innocence to the character that tears at the heart. As Mulligan, Nate Dunaway gives multiple layers to his character reveals a sweet and caring man wrapped in layers of masculinity. The nurses, Erin and Eileen Olson and Murrah give us the tough exterior of Irish immigrants who fought to make a place for themselves in America, but they also radiate the fear and vulnerability of women in a man's world. Aaron Black's Colonel is menacing and ambitious, presenting a villain we can truly hate. It's not often that we see a new 'period' drama and SAINT SOMEBODY is refreshing to see. The story is engaging and performances well worth your time. I hope you find it as compelling as I did.
by Rita Anderson
Mèlange Theatre Company at Trinity Street Playhouse, 901 Trinity Street, Austin
November 14 - December 1 Thursday thru Saturday 8:00 PM, Sunday 2:00 PM
Tickets: $23 - $25 melangetheatrecompany.com