BWW Review: Theatre Cedar Rapids Brings Life to Vinegar Tom
Vinegar Tom is a play written by Caryl Churchill. The play deals with women, witch craft and so much more. It is set in the late 70's. The cast consist of a small ensemble of 13 characters, often played by eight to ten individuals. For a complete summary on Vinegar Tom, click HERE.
Theatre Cedar Rapids does a fantastic job at bringing this script to life. The strong presence of women is there throughout the entire production. They captivate the audience with the idea of Alice and her mother being witches. The dynamic of women wanting to take control of their own density and bodies but the way that others view them take a toll on their decisions. Sexuality, marriage, and abortion are all relevant topics within the script and are still relevant today.
TCR presents Vinegar Tom in the black box theatre downstairs. The intimate setting was the perfect choice for this "in your face" production. Walking into the theatre you feel the empowerment of women immediately through the music. Strong, emotional and liberating vocals of mainstream artists like Beyoncé and Carrie Underwood satisfy your ears. The actors roam around while the house is open and sing along with the house music. The ambience continues throughout the production.
Layering of clothing helps with quick costume changes. Convenient placement of instruments and props allow the actors to smoothly transition from one scene to the next with the guests barely noticing. Comical short songs break the seriousness of the content of the play. Some of the songs more pleasant than others.
Claire Winkleback, the actress who plays Alice, captures the audience with her excellent understanding of the character via dialogue. Clearly, she is fully committed to her role in each scene. Sadly, her vocals are not as strong and leaves the audience dreading for the songs to be over. The comical pieces, especially at the end lacks conviction and therefore left the audience a bit confused.
The strongest vocalist of the ensemble is Kaamilya William, or Ellen. The audience could not hold their applause as her beautiful, strong and soulful voice embraced the stage. She embodies the part of the midwife from her hand movements to her laughter within each scene.
Each actor brings their A game to this production but some have stronger vocals than others.
TCR makes memorable scenes with the use of lights and drums within the close space. Betty, played by Emmy Palmersheim, goes to see the doctor. The intensity of the screams, red flashing lights and background noise allows the audience to experience this torture with Betty. Another memorable moment is the lynching of the witches. Each character fully commits as they leave their tongues out of their mouths, dripping saliva and heads slumped to the side. These were the most realistic lynching's I have ever seen on stage. I was literately two feet from the actors.
TCR presents Vinegar Tom in a venerable and raw intimate atmosphere that creates the perfect time to discuss the reoccurring themes that Caryl Churchill explores. So sorry if you missed this one!