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Blackberry Winter

a Drama
by Steve Yockey

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4805

SHOWING : November 05, 2015 - November 22, 2015



Vivienne struggles with caring for her mother, an Alzheimer’s patient whose condition is showing signs of deterioration. In some of Yockey’s most poignant writing to date, she confesses and confronts the myriad challenges of caring for someone who is vanishing slowly before her very eyes.

Director Ariel Fristoe
Animation Marisa Ginger Tontaveetong
Set Designer Kathryn Conley
Vivienne Avery Carolyn Cook
Costume Designer Isabel curley-clay
Costume Designer Moriah curley-clay
Composer Haddon Givens Kime
White Egret Maia Knispel
Gray Mole J. Joe Sykes
Lighting Designer Ben Tilley
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Alzheimer’s Creation Myth
by playgoer
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Steve Yockey’s "Blackberry Winter" is essentially the monologue of a woman agonizing over the need to move her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother from an assisted living home of "Residence Inn" quality, which her mother has selected, to a nursing home. This monologue is interrupted by a three-part narrated video of a Alzheimer’s creation myth that the woman has supposedly written.

Carolyn Cook could hardly be better as the woman, Vivienne Avery. She’s engaging, charming, prickly but always polite, and she controls every moment of the action. It’s a lovely performance. Maria Knispel (White Egret) and Joe Sykes (Gray Mole) are burdened with narrating the video, portions of which are written in dense and difficult-to-decipher verse. Director Ariel Fristoe has given them nice movements and vocal changes to perform, but they remain in the background (literally and figuratively).

Kat Conley’s scenic design and Ben Tilley’s lighting design work hand-in-hand to create lovely stage pictures. The wood plank stage has recessed lighting around its lip, and ten illuminated stands hold various items pertinent to the stories Vivienne tells. Burlap-effect projection screens on three sides combine with the white of the stands, a chair, and the soffit-like lighting "U" above to give a clean look. Marisa Ginger Tontaveetong’s animation, using elements from Ashley Love, Ai Zhang, and Shir Wen Sun, gives a storybook feel that the text does not. Costumes by Isabel & Moriah Curley-Clay are adequate, but nothing more. Haddon Kime’s sound design and compositions are lovely and effective.

Ms. Cook does her best to keep interest throughout, but the ending is a bit long in coming in this intermissionless play. It doesn’t help that Vivienne has described herself as being known for her breads and desserts (with a coconut cake recipe recited verbatim onstage), yet her last anecdote concerns digging with her mother in a pecan grove for truffles that she says she can use in her cooking. Maybe so, but not in her desserts. That slightly "off" note is echoed in the times when Vivienne dissolves in tears, which don’t seem to follow naturally from the preceding discussions.

"Blackberry Winter" attempts to be an affecting tale of the impact of Alzheimer’s on a caregiver. It succeeds in large part through the talents of Carolyn Cook. There’s not a lot of new ground covered, and the overall somber, elegiac tone keeps the audience at a respectful distance. The play is easier to admire as an effort than to enjoy as a finished product. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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