BWW Reviews: Mustard Seed Theatre's Fascinating Production of GEE'S BEND

By: Feb. 20, 2014

Quilting is truly an art form, and though a lot of the quilts made over the years were made strictly out of necessity, a lot of them now hang in art museums. Playwright Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder uses this fact to tell the story of the Pettway women from Gee's Bend, Alabama. Now, if you're thinking that quilting is all this play is about, you'd be mistaken. It's certainly a part of the picture, but Wilder let's us view the family as they age and confront the changes that occur to them against the backdrop of our history. Gee's Bend is a fascinating piece that's deserving of your time and attention, and Mustard Seed Theatre has put together a very fine production.

The story focuses on the Pettway women, in particular the mother (Alice) and her two daughters (Sadie and Nella). We first catch up with them in 1939 where Sadie is learning the fine art of quilting from her mother. From there we witness her, pregnancy and eventual marriage to the strong willed Macon. As time passes, Sadie becomes caught up in the civil rights movement, even though her absences from home draw the ire of her husband. Eventually we find our way to the present where Sadie and Nella finally see their family quilts hanging alongside fine art at the Whitney Museum in New York.

Jacqueline Thompson does exceptional work as Sadie, and we watch her grow and blossom into adulthood as the story unfolds. Alicia Reve Like is also quite good, and very amusing, as her disinterested and stubborn sister Nella. Marty K. Casey is terrific as Alice, their mother, and also as Sadie's grown up daughter, Asia. Reginald Pierre rounds out the cast as Sadie's hard working husband, Macon.

Deanna Jent's direction is nicely realized by this great ensemble, and proves, once again, why Jent is one of the best directors working in St. Louis. Kyra Bishop's changeable set is simple and open, allowing out focus to be on the actors. Bess Moynihan's lighting follows the various moods and locales that are suggested. Jane Sullivan's costumes are excellent character fits as well.

Go see Mustard Seed Theatre's production of Gee's Bend, and take an interesting journey through history. The play continues through February 23, 2014 at Fontbonne University.