Like the beautiful full moon in clear skies over Williamston on September’s first day of autumn, the ‘Blue Door’ opened the first night of a beautiful new, and fifth, season at Williamston Theatre.
‘Blue Door’ – by Tanya Barfield – is about “History. Roots. Heritage.” So writes Chris Purchis, WT managing director, who figures the play is great for working through the themes of “Where did we come from? How did we get here? Where are we going?” Questions the theatre company is also working through.
Says Director Tony Caselli: “I’m hoping we pack the house for this one – it’s a show that I think is going to knock people’s socks right off, and leave them with a LOT to talk about after they leave the theatre!”
In ‘Blue Door,’ actors Rico Bruce Wade (Lewis) and Julian Gant (Simon/Rex/Jesse) are spellbinding in their portrayals (reminiscent for me of the saga of Kunte Kinte in ‘Roots’) of characters in the life of an African-American man, as he wrestles with his demons on a sleepless night on the sand – a beautiful beach setting, complete with beach grass and magically co-existing stacks of tomes, representing his academic background.
A book title, “The Nature of Time” happens to stare at you strategically face-up on the sand, by the giant replica of a book that Lewis uses as a personal stage, right next to his shoes he’s removed for the night.
The Blue Door, an entryway figuring prominently on the set, also represents the passage of time, as well as personal, spiritual passages of Lewis and his ancestors.
The play, running through Oct. 17, is directed by Suzi Regan. WT summary:
“A tenured professor of mathematics at a well-regarded university is jolted from the rut of his life when his wife leaves him. Underneath his veneer of success lies a soul troubled by questions of personal and cultural identity. While experiencing a disorienting insomnia he inadvertently conjures his ancestors. Three generations of men, from slavery through Black Power, challenge him to embark upon a journey combining past and present. Infused with abundant humor and woven through with original songs, “Blue Door” is a tour de force for two actors. This show contains mature themes.”
Many reviews call the show mesmerizing. Each production at Williamston Theatre is mesmerizing in its unique way, simply because of the intimacy of the actors with the audience. You always come away feeling that you were participating within the play, not just being an observer of a far-away stage. So the big life questions tend to draw you into them each time.
For Chris Purchis, Tony Caselli (Artistic Director), Emily Sutton- Smith (Development Director), and John Lepard (WT Executive Director) ‘Blue Door’ begins the 2010-2011 season on a milestone note, as this is the fifth season for the award-winning professional theatre. So there’s a celebratory mood this year.
And, as Chris Purchis relates in the ‘Blue Door’ program, “Believe me, just like Lewis, the four of us have had our share of sleepless nights. Looking back at what we’ve done. Making sure everything is running smoothly. Trying to figure out what comes next.”
Thankfully, after four wonderful years of productions in a welcoming town, she can add the following observation: “We all sleep better at night knowing that we have such a wonderful community supporting us.”
As for what comes next? Next up is ‘Greater Tuna’ — November 11 – December 19, 2010. Directed by Tony Caselli. Here’s the synopsis: “Meet Arles Struvie, Thurston Wheelis, Aunt Pearl, Petey Fisk, Phineas Blye and Rev. Spikes, just some of the upstanding citizens of Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas. This hilarious off-Broadway hit, a love-letter to small town mores, qualities and quirks, takes you through a typical day in the life of Tuna and its most whimsical denizen.”
Theatre and upcoming production information is available at www.williamstontheatre.org You can also follow WT on Facebook and Twitter
Starting opening night, tickets prices are $24 for Friday and Saturday evenings, $20 for all matinees and $18 for Thursday evenings. Discounted rates are available for groups of 10 or more for most performances. Tickets can be ordered by calling (517) 655-SHOW (7469), Monday-Friday from noon-6 p.m. Theatre goers may park on the street and in several municipal lots. The theater is located at 122 S. Putnam in downtown Williamston (exit 117 off of I-96) just south of Grand River Avenue.
The not-for-profit, professional live theater company opened its doors in 2006 and has received a number of local awards including the 2008 Robert Busby Award for extraordinary overall contribution to theater in the Greater Lansing Area.