Theater Review: ‘Stoop Stories’ take you thereBy Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | August 05,2014Photo by Tim Fort
Dael Orlandersmith performs her “Stoop Stories” at the Weston Playhouse’s Rod & Gun Club.WESTON – Storytelling is what theater is all about, and “Stoop Stories,” which opened Friday at the Weston Playhouse’s Rod & Gun Club, is about as compelling as it can be.
Dael Orlandersmith’s terribly urban one-woman show, set on a Harlem tenement stoop, offers a handful of stories that range from terribly funny to deeply moving. For 80 short minutes, at Thursday’s preview, she had her audience riveted, laughing and even shedding a few tears. It was great storytelling.
Unusually, Orlandersmith introduced her characters and then became them. Perhaps the most touching was an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor and his chance meeting with jazz singer Billie Holiday in a Harlem bar. For a moment, Orlandersmith was this man — and we got to share his feelings for jazz and this doomed star. There seems to be an autobiographical element as she describes — and plays — a lonely book-loving girl who admires another who falls for fast men with fine cars — until the nerd finds herself in the same boat.
Much more fun is a scene in a Manhattan coffee shop where construction and office men are ogling a pair of cute teen girls. The girls clearly enjoy taunting the leering men — until they get a dose of their own.
Jut plain funny was the tale of a 70-year-old woman hobbling, via two trains and too much walking, with her fat husband, Tiny, to the East Village to see Nina Simone.
Orlandersmith portrays a gritty Harlem where blacks and Latinos struggle to survive — or escape. The tales are told lovingly and sympathetically, but holding none of the ugly details back. Orlandersmith’s stories are very real — and very compelling.
In the play, Orlandersmith goes back and forth between narrator and character with the natural ease of a skilled actor. Only the finale felt a little awkward, even unfinished.
The Weston production, directed by Steve Cosson, places her on a minimalist set and stoop, designed by Andrew Boyce, dramatically lit by Amith Chandrashaker. Her costume, by Alexandra Gage Englund, seemed a bit overwrought but authentic.
Orlandersmith developed the play in part at a 2009 Weston Playhouse Artists’ Retreat. It is there where she met Cosson, who is the artistic director of the New York City theater The Civilians.
“Stoop Stories” is compelling and authentic storytelling — and most entertaining.
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company presents Dael Orlandersmith in her one-woman show, “Stoop Stories,” July 24-Aug. 3 at Weston’s Weston Rod and Gun Club, 982 Route 100 South in Weston. Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets start at $15; call 802-824-5288, or go online to www.westonplayhouse.org.
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