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BWW Review: THE DAIRY MAID-RIGHT at Shelterbelt Theatre is Made Just Right

BWW Review: THE DAIRY MAID-RIGHT at Shelterbelt Theatre is Made Just Right

It is motivating for me to see local people who create exceptional work. One of these people is Ellen Struve, author of THE DAIRY MAID-RIGHT, now showing at the Shelterbelt Theatre. For the entire play, I sat engrossed, not only because of the story line and the accomplished actors, but because the writing is just so good. I took copious notes, thinking, "I have to remember this line! "or "That is really clever!" The audience agreed, based on their frequent spontaneous laughter.

THE DAIRY MAID-RIGHT takes place in a fictional small Nebraska town. Courtney (Morgan Dobersek) rehearses her legacy sorority theme song while dishing up ice cream. She is blonde, attractive, and seemingly leading a problem free life...except for her missing brother. Working with her at Dairy Maid-Right is David (Manny Onate), an American born boy with Mexican heritage. David, pronounced Dah Veed...(accent on the last syllable) is valedictorian of his class while Courtney gets by.

Tasked with closing the store, Courtney accidentally fails to drain the oil from the fryer, but intentionally leaves a door unlocked. David cannot understand her negligence or why she's listening to a foreign language recording on her phone. Courtney begs David to keep a secret. She has discovered a young teenaged girl hiding in the cornfields and is determined to give her a place to sleep. Well aware that hiding an 'illegal' is against the law, David helps Courtney until her father, Matt (Ted Lane), David's mother, Alma (Leah Cardenas), and the local policeman, Robbie (Dennis Stessman) verbally build a wall.

Amy Lane does a superb job directing this able cast in a fast-paced, succinct manner. There are no extraneous motions or conversation. Everything belongs. Each of these actors is great at moving the story along with impressive skill. From Dobersek with her big hearted desire to help others to Stessman with his locked jaw commitment to the letter of the law, the acting is honest.

Manny Onate, quick with witty comebacks and free with his tears, Onate quips that the school system does not take the tan kids aside and teach them what to do with kids hiding in cornfields, and weeps for his mother and those without papers who risk deportation.

Cardenas and Lane are both impressive in their parental roles. Loving. Protective. Torn between what is legal and what is right.

The only what-could-be-construed-as-a-negative is that the conversation between David and his mother goes on in Spanish for a few minutes too long. My few rudimentary phrases in Spanish don't take me far enough. With writing this good, I want to understand every bit of it.

What I do understand from this play is that: 1) We've spent our school years learning how hard it was for white people to get here; 2) There are opposing viewpoints and each deserves a listening ear; 3) You can't judge the living by the number of the dead; and 4) You can take back a shoe, but you can't take back your words!

Kudos and my heartfelt admiration to Ellen Struve, Amy Lane, and this expressive cast. The ending touch could not be more poignant.

Photo Credit: Manny Onate and Morgan Dobersek by Ellen Struve

The DAIRY MAID-RIGHT is showing July 13-August 5. This will be the last production at the current location at 3225 California Street. A search is underway for a new home for the theatre company.

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From This Author Christine Swerczek