Play evaluation: “Soup” – a profitable recipe

By David Greenham

Congratulations to Gloucester Stage’s new creative director, Rebecca Bradshaw, on staging the regional premiere of this intriguing script, a kitchen sink comedy/drama that’s something however perfunctory.

Cheryl Singleton in a Gloucester Stage Manufacturing soup. Picture: Jason Gro

soup by Zora Howard. Directed by Rosalind Bevan. Scenic design by Jenna McFarland Lord. Costume design by KJ Gilmer. Lighting design by Kat C. Zhou. Sound design by Aubrey Dube. Organized by the Gloucester Stage Firm, Gloucester, via 23 July.

We are able to all use a second every so often to sing alongside to energetic gospel music and acquire our ideas. That is precisely what Mama (Cheryl D. Singleton) does through the opening cooking moments of Zora Howard’s Pulitzer textual content, soup.

Set within the cozy, if outdated, kitchen of the Turner household, Mama places flavors on what she calls “soup for a really big day” as she sways to the music. Her solitude was quickly interrupted by a loud bang from exterior the home. It not solely shocks Mama however your entire home, which incorporates her two daughters, Lillian (Breezy Lee) in her 30s, and 17-year-old Nellie (Janelle Grace) as Lillian’s 12-year-old daughter, Lil’ Mama (Sadia Cube) Janae Stevens ).

The 4 Turner women, with alternately buoyant and rambunctious vitality, generate loads of multigenerational banter and blame as they work their means via Howard’s stellar 90-minute comedy-drama. Like stew on the stovetop, Turners is a layered concoction.

the plot? An after-church occasion on Sunday requires sufficient to feed 50 individuals. Regardless of Mama’s finest efforts – which might simply be redirected to different pursuits and considerations – the soup is burned and she or he has to begin over from scratch.

In fact, Howard’s Kitchen Drama is not actually involved with soup on the range. (It is the theatrical model of MacGuffin.) As a substitute, the work focuses on the give-and-take dialog of home conflicts. Every character involves the desk with their very own struggles, and the issues grow to be extra advanced because the dialog continues.

Mama is sick and sluggish, however she’s not prepared to speak about it. “Are you Dane?” Lillian asks to know. Mama would not quit on something, however she sarcastically admits, “It is positively the course I am going.” Lillian has simply come residence unexpectedly and slowly begins speaking concerning the challenges of her marriage. Extra verses arrive. The telephone rings a number of instances, and when another person solutions, the caller hangs up. Lastly, Lillian lastly opened up and gave a proof combined with remorse.

Marriage just isn’t the very first thing on Nelly’s thoughts. It’s the seek for real love. She explains to Lil’ Mama that it is not “buddy” love, it is “man”. “A buddy is momentary,” Nelly confidently declares, “a person is eternally.” She’s in a rush to search out the actual factor, and she or he will not decelerate. “Time does nothing however make you previous, sick and lifeless,” says Nelly.

When it comes proper all the way down to it, Lil’ Mama thinks all adults are just a little loopy. Stephens’ Lil Mama’s delightfully expressive face responds to every little thing round her with amused power. However even Lil’ Mama has a secret: She’s auditioning for the function of Queen Elizabeth in a faculty manufacturing of Shakespearean movies Richard III. She wants to arrange.

This excellent news drives the household into motion. Every girl declares that she is expert in performing. Preparing for the take a look at offers loads of laughs, however it’s Mama who has the ultimate say. She is, in any case, “the founder and director emeritus of the Mount Vernon Excessive Dramatic League in addition to being the primary soloist of the Centennial Main AME Zion Church.” Mama additionally is aware of a factor or two concerning the form of loss Queen Elizabeth suffered and the feelings behind “Mom’s Lament.”

soup He was directed with clever deputation by Rosalind Bevan. Just a few phrases are misplaced within the convention, and the characters converse over one another at instances. However do not fret. What goes round will come once more. Consider your loved ones gatherings. Much more tough is making the uncommon silences of the Turner girls convincing. There isn’t a shy particular person on this group. All of them have opinions about nearly every little thing. Credit score Bevan to create a layered platter of feelings and relationships, one which comfortably accommodates laughter and love. And silent despair.

As Mama, Singleton opts for an understated method, offering a robust distinction to the opposite three artists. It interjects loads of satirical wit, completely capturing the battle between deep religion and the need to curse a energetic, pesky canine ​​that will not cease barking.

Enthusiastic and strong-willed, Lillian has essentially the most advanced character. We do not all the time know precisely what’s on her thoughts, however Lee, with infectious vitality, factors out the character’s interior turmoil.

For me, Janelle Grace captures the essence of a 17-year-old know-it-all. She believes she has fully found out life – regardless that she would not know what the following second will deliver. The character is caught in a well-known household cycle – and the long run is prepared.

Lil Mama could also be an homage to a protracted line of late teenagers or pre-teen ladies that we regularly discover in traditional literature. Stephens creates a delightfully foolish character. She’s a free spirit, decided to do her personal factor, and half sponge, absorbing every little thing round her.

Jenna McFarland-Lord’s ensemble and KJ Gilmer’s outfits are good — understated sufficient to maintain us on our toes. Kat C. Zhou’s lighting is normally spot on, however this time it appears to be like unsure, even intrusive. One of many defining moments within the finale is properly achieved which requires augmented lighting. However earlier than that, there are occasions when lighting attracts consideration to itself in methods unrelated to the script or the sentiment of the manufacturing.

What hits the mark, although, is Aubrey Dube’s satisfying voice design. The energetic music between scenes serves the narrative properly – the melodies give us permission to exhale.

Congratulations to Gloucester’s new creative director Rebecca Bradshaw on staging the regional premiere of this intriguing script, a kitchen sink comedy/drama that’s something however perfunctory.

David Greenham He’s an adjunct lecturer in drama on the College of Maine at Augusta, and government director of the Maine Arts Fee. He has been a performing artist and creative director in Maine for over 30 years.

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