Premiering at the Spoleto Arts Festival in 1997, Dreams of Martha Stewart, written by Pamela Parker, ran Off-Broadway and then toured nationally for three years. The author is the two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee for her plays A Higher Place and Heaven And Second Samuel. With numerous works both in progress and underway, her publicity states that "only Shakespeare himself has been produced more times than she at the Charleston Festival."
Dreams Of Martha Stewart is Pamela Parker's tale of a slightly frazzled woman in search of self. In a Home And Garden picture-perfect world she has yet to achieve, she elevates homemaking icon Martha Stewart to the status of an all-knowing Dali Llama. Sure that Martha holds the "recipe for a good life," she undertakes a cross-country bus trip to meet Martha herself. Intent on the question "What is the meaning of life?" she travels from Ft. Lauderdale to West Port, Connecticut. On the way there, she is served up slices of life by the people she meets, her journey flavored by their life stories. In the end, her realization is that the meaning of her life is in the journeying itself. That experience which we would deem mundane, those we would view hastily in passing, all shape and define us. And, in the words of the author, "To ignore any one part of it is to do disservice to the whole."
Though written in 1997, before Martha Stewart's bout with the law, Miss Stewart is still a fitting American moniker for this story. Who else could emerge from prison 20 pounds lighter, with popularity barely marred and namesake company stock value actually higher than when she went into jail? What's the angle to this particular story by Pamela Parker? Actress Sally Bond plays all the characters herself in this one woman show. The writing misses some opportunities of more humor juxtaposed with tenderness to provide peaks and valleys to the overall picture. Too many of those peaks and valleys were left to the actress to create through characterization. And a 90-minute production without intermission of just YOU on stage is no easy feat. Some of the 12 characters are more engaging and fleshed out than others, but Miss Bondi's energy and pacing remain constant throughout. I especially loved her old woman in the park.
The setting for this production presented by the Public Theatre of South Florida is the simple stage of the Soref JCC. Direction by producer David Jay Bernsten is based on original direction by Kimberly Dobbs. One costume, one set, and no hand props are all that is called for, and all that is needed. My only complaint is that I had to really concentrate to hear Miss Bondi at all times in that space. The sound system volume should have been turned up.
This production of Dreams Of Martha Stewart is being presented by The Public Theatre of South Florida in cooperation with the Soref JCC and the Tamarac Theatre of Performing Arts. It plays through June 26, 2005 at the Soref JCC (3 lights west of the Turnpike) at 6501 W. Sunrise Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It is being performed in repertory with The Waltonsteins by Frannie Sheridan. For tickets to these shows and information on The Public Theatre, you may contact the theater at 954/ 427-0784 or on line at www.publictheatre.com.