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I'm A-Willin' and the Laughter's A-Risin' By playgoer

Norcross Presbyterian Church and Lionheart Theatre Company's joint production of "If the Good Lord's Willing and the Creek Don't Rise" is a hoot and a half. Under the sparkling direction of Tanya Caldwell, Pat Cook's script keeps the laughs coming from start to finish.

The proceedings center around eccentric ex-lawyer "Doc" Babcock. Since his wife died, he has given up the legal profession and writes pithy daily sayings that he's collecting into a book. His household abounds with visitors, some seeming nearly as eccentric as he is. There's a couple of high school drama kids (the enthusiastic Laura Dietrich as Doreen and the equally energetic Jamie Dion Hicks as Leo), a neighbor who fishes in a dry riverbed (the hilarious Dot Reilley as Max), a high school teacher/artist (the wonderfully natural Alan Gilmer as Steve), and a local judge (the cheery Rebecca Knoff as Elizabeth Clairbourne).

Into this household walks newbie psychologist Mandy Pemberton (the immensely likeable Sarah Brown), sent by dastardly lawyer Gerald Firestone (the intense Jerry Knoff) on behalf of Doc's estranged daughter (the capable Stella Pop-Ceapa as Charlotte). The situation resembles that of "The Curious Savage," but with more comedy and less sweetness. It's all wrapped up in a delightful way, with a nicely open-ended ending to the first act.

The performing space at Norcross Presbyterian Church is the church itself, with church pews as seating. That's not ideal for an audience, but the stage is high enough up to provide for acceptable sight lines. It's not a large stage, but it contains a baby grand piano and several pieces of furniture. Add in nine people, and the place could be crowded. It's a testament to the director's skill at blocking that movement always flows to make everyone visible. That's important when the reactions of background characters add so much to the liveliness of the proceedings.

The set, by Bill Brown, cast, and director, works splendidly. It's attractive in the way that a widower's place might be, with messiness on top of elements that might have been chosen by the widower's wife (whom he chooses to believe is just always in "the other room"). A small porch downstage right and fence segments downstage right extend the scenery to cover the full width of the room. It's perhaps a bit more colorful than a real-life room would be, but its brightness gives a theatrical flair that fits in with Doc's oversized personality.

The only defects in the performance I saw were a couple of iffy light changes and some isolated diction problems from Jamie Dion Hicks. It was remarkably well-polished for an opening night performance. There was a bit of a giggle when Alan Gilmer was introduced as twenty-something, but I really had no problem with any of the casting. The ensemble works so well together that it's obvious director Tanya Caldwell has shaped the play to emphasize the qualities of her performers and simultaneously drive the plot forward. I found "If the Good Lord's Willing and the Creek Don't Rise" to be a delightful evening of entertainment.
[Post a Reply]  May 15, 2013 10:43 pm

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