note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark
Scenic Design by Paul Theriault
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Costume Design by Bob Pagliarulo
Sound Design by Rick Brenner
Stage Manager Carrie Dirats
Assistant Stage Manager Meg Hanceford
Sammie Sloan..............Lonnie Farmer
Charlie ("Blow Boy")......Balele Shoka
Jacqui Parker could have subtitled her play "Four Uppity Girls, Dishin' an' Dissin" but "...a love story" is a much more accurate description --- although the course of true love never done run smooth, so they say. At the center of the play is "The Quintessence" --- a blues/gospel/soul trio come off nine years of the road with their first big record, and lots of discords breaking out in all directions.
Teda (Jacqui Parker, the playwright) sings lead, and she's married to Lynold (Ricardo Engerman) --- if you can call it a marriage with no physical relations for the year since Lynold said "no children". And there's Gina (Tiffany Mayes), who could sing lead, and just might be auditioning as Lynold's second wife. Sadie (Trecia Reavis, who wrote and arranged the short songs that Parker herself didn't write) is so young that even in nine years on the road she's chaste, but mooning over a dozen romantical fan-letters left anonymously on her window-sill with a single rose under every one. And a trio like that means girl-talk aplenty!
They're back home for a final gig at an old Tremont Street jazz club called The Sunshine Club (NOT The Sugar-Shack; nosiree!), where earth-mother Mamie (Juanita Rodriguez) can dish with the best, but knows what she knows, and her advice is tempered not only with experience, but with the genuine love for one another that holds "The Quintessence" painfully, humanly together.
But this isn't an all-girl-orchestra of a play; Balele Shoka plays "Blow Boy" whose jazz saxophone riffs and concern for the group and its members --- well, maybe one member in particular --- serves to cool things down and to spice them up all at the same time. And as "Bottle Man" (even though he'd preFER to be called Sammy Sloan) Lonnie Farmer hovers at the edge of the action, too shy to reveal himself, too respectful and shy to do much else.
There's pain, spite, anger, misunderstanding, humiliation and betrayal in this play, along with love, honesty and self-respect enough to weather storms and survive death --- and five songs in various styles, harmonies and solos and a long a capella gospel tune, that always unite the bickering group. There's girlie-talk when men ain't round and a whole different tone to repartee when they are. And, since the right couples find each other by final curtain, the play Jacqui Parker wrote and Maureen Shea directed and everyone acted with solid, serious exuberance turns out to be "... a love story" after all.
I loved it.
You will too, if you hurry and claim one of the few tickets left....