Monday, February 27, 2012

Red Door: "Southern Comforts"

Plenty of laugh out loud moments and a spontaneous standing ovation were the rewards offered to the two character comedy: Kathleen Clark's Southern Comforts which regrettably played for only four performances at Union Springs' Red Door Theatre.

The set-up and end result are fairly familiar and predictable -- two lonely widowed individuals, he from New Jersey and she from Tennessee, meet by accident and throughout several months of continual gender and regional misunderstandings and disagreements, fall in love and live happily (?) ever after.

This otherwise hackneyed premise is rescued by Clark's witty and continually surprising script, director Anna Perry's spot-on pacing, and two superb performances by Matthew Givens and Betty Hubbard.

While Amanda is visiting her daughter in New Jersey and covering the neighborhood for church donations, she comes upon Gus in his Spartanly furnished house [a chair, a tv, an all but empty bookshelf, and a few photographs]. A rainstorm strands her there, beginning a series of visits with a new-found friend.

It is easy to see who is in command. Though Gus claims he is content with his surroundings and living a bachelor existence, Amanda charms him [and us] with her cool politeness and steadfastness...traits often associated both with women and the South.

The ease with which they open up to one another stems at first from their liking baseball, though they disagree on the strategy of the game. And later, they escape coffee-klatches & boring church sermons to discover a lot more about one another: they are both strong-willed, but can tolerate political differences & desire for travel.

When their talk shifts to more sensitive issues like sex & marriage [one of the funiest scenes in the play] they each realize that change might be good for both of them.

In Act II, Amanda has moved in to Gus's house, complete with furniture and household belongings, bringing the woman's touch and a completeness to the house as well as to their relationship. -- Regardless, his [and her] attempt to install storm windows shows once again their disparate ways of handling matters...and it is funny.

Underlying all of this, however, is a very serious subject: meaningfull relationships can only be successful when both parties (a) love one another and (b) are willing to compromise. One line sums it up: "I want you to be happy whatgever it takes."

Perhaps we could all learn from this.