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The Sty of the Blind Pig
Banyan Theater Company

Also see Bill's review of Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul


Cassandra Small and Kimberly Webb
Banyan Theater Company is now in its 13th season of presenting three challenging plays each summer. They are currently presenting Phillip Hayes Dean's The Sty of the Blind Pig, a play I was previously unfamiliar with and about which I can find limited historical information. It was first produced at The American Place Theater in New York in 1968. At the heart of the play is the relationship between Weedy and Alberta, a mother and her daughter of a certain age. Also involved are the mother's brother Doc and Blind Jordan, an itinerant street musician who wanders into the household and sticks around long enough to have a strong impact on Alberta. The play attempts to show us a slice of life and I suspect that it may have influenced the writings of August Wilson some 20 years later. I was not sure that I was fully understanding the play while watching it, but in a conversation with another patron and during a talk back with the actors, I gained a firmer grasp of the author's intent. For black audiences it is an opportunity to see their culture at a certain time and place on display. Based on the reaction of other audience members at intermission and after the play, I am not sure that this play resonates with white audiences as strongly as Wilson's Century Cycle plays do.

The production is first rate. All four actors form a strong ensemble with the chemistry of a stagnating family. Ron Bobb-Semple as Blind Jordan has been seen frequently on area stages, notably at West Coast Black Theatre Troupe in August Wilson's Jitney. Here he returns to a role he played 30 years ago in New York. He is completely believable in his character's blindness. Cassandra Small as Weedy dominates, as the matriarch of a family tends to do. Weedy is crotchety and set in her ways for sure, but Ms. Small finds the loving part of her soul. Alan Bomar Jones as Doc has also been seen in several August Wilson plays at American Stage, and the excellence of his cumulative work is an important part of those productions. Here he portrays a ne'er do well who carries himself with great style. The way he is able to wear gloves, taking them on and off, demonstrates his skills in bringing characters richly to life. Alberta is the showiest role in this play; in act two she has an extended solo scene in which she lives a religious experience. Ms. Webb handles this scene well, and she is even stronger in the rest of the play. Her sparring with her mother throughout the play has great emotional depth; these people have a long history with each other.

The direction by Mark Clayton Southers is not showy but such extraordinary ensemble acting does not come out of nowhere. He paces the play well and keeps things in focus. All of the technical elements of this production—sets by Rick Cannon, costumes by Ross Boehringer, and lighting by Michael Pasquini—further polish this gem of a production. Sound design is credited to Edward Costa, and the actors are not miked which I loved.

Next up at Banyan Theater Company is Donald Margulies' Collected Stories a fascinating look at mentor/mentee relationships, August 7-24, 2014.

Banyan Theater Company presents The Sty of the Blind Pig through August 3, 2014, at the Jane B. Cook Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL, 34243. Call (941) 351-2808 or banyantheatercompany.com

Cast: Blind Jordan: Ron Bobb-Semple*
Doc: Alan Bomar Jones*
Weedy Warren: Cassandra Small*
Alberta Warren: Kimberly Webb
* Member of Actors' Equity Association

Director: Mark Clayton Southers
Set Designer: Rick Can non
Costume Designer: Ross Boehringer
Lighting Designer: Michael Pasquini
Sound Designer: Edward Costa
Technical director: Peter MacBeth
Production Stage Manager: Jon Meryyn
Assistant Stage Managers: Heather McLeod, Patty Snyder-Atkins, James Van Horn


Picture: Gary W. Sweetman

--William S. Oser



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