BWW Review: THE LONG GOODBYE at Monticello Opera House
A Perpetual Christmas, A Journey Through Denial
The color yellow stands out in "The Long Goodbye." It radiates off the waitress' costumes at Jeddie's Diner. It clothes Mrs. Pet (Monica Woods) in her Sunday finest.
Yellow -- such a bright, brilliant color peeping out through the green and red holiday colors that adorn Mrs. Pet's and Clarence's (K. Sidney Bronson) home year-round after their daughter, Amy (Kimora Lee-George), passes away.
The Long Goodbye's stage contains Jeddie's Diner, Clarence and Pet's home, and Amy's red convertible as the main three components. The Diner is the heart of the community. People come and go, sharing community chatter and the bonds that bind neighbors. The Diner is, in fact, where Pet learns of Amy's illness.
What the audience doesn't understand at first is the degree to which Pet can't understand the finality of Amy's passing. Pet and Clarence's marriage changes and begins drifting apart as she falls deeper into denial.
A new arrival, Jodie (Kyonna Floyd), arrives in town and gets a job at Jeddie's where, Pet tells her, "Jeddie (Tyler Wold) owns it, but Lottie Mae (Linda K. Stringer) is in charge." Jodie may be a sort of proxy or stand-in for Amy in Pet's mind, but it gets complicated.
Floyd's Jodie is effervescent and flirtacious; it's not surprising that a chemistry develops between her and Terry, Amy's widow.
As the relationships evolve, the tension between Pet and Clarence is palpable. There is anger to work through, as there would be after such a loss. Clarence clings to the symbolism of a particular truck; he appears to want a symbol, a sign ... a glimmer of hope.
This is a show for an audience member with the ability to empathize with the pain of losing someone dear, an appreciation for strong community ties, and a willingness to suspend a bit of disbelief in support of a mother who is having trouble letting go.
The show is heartfelt, has funny moments despite the overshadowing denial and grief, and makes an audience member feel they would be at home at Jeddie's.
The lighting designer (Evangeline Ciupek) deserves kudos for the lighting management, for the visual created by the "headlights" that "traverse" the room.
The recorded music subtly changes throughout the show, moving from a low-key jazz in the first act through spirituals, Christmas music and more fast-paced jazz in the second act.
This play began in 1986 when playwright Anthony Lamarr White created a skit for church to honor an Aunt who passed away the prior Christmas. Through several different titles, presentations and iterations, it became The Long Goodbye, and this run at the Monticello Opera House in conjunction with the Florida A&M University Essential Theatre is its World Premiere. It will open again in Atlanta at the New African Grove Theatre Company on Dec. 7.
The Monticello Opera House run was directed by Evelyn Tyler.
For more information: https://www.monticellooperahouse.org/buy-tickets
Photo credit: Monticello Opera House