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A Southern Exposure

a Comedy/Drama
by Kelley Kingston-Strayer

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 5303

SHOWING : July 19, 2018 - July 29, 2018



"A Southern Exposure" is a comedy-drama set in a small town in 1990’s Kentucky. It is the story of Callie Belle Hurt, whose idea of love is so unrealistic it could be lifted from the pages of a romance novel. Raised by Hattie, her sassy, Bible-thumping grandmother with a cast-iron will and her two eccentric aunts, Callie Belle stuns her family when she announces that she has fallen in love and is moving to New York to live with her boyfriend.

Director Brandi Kilgore
Set Design Tanya Moore
Ida Mae Glory Hanna
Mattie Marla Krohn
Callie Belle Katherine Waddell
Hattie Merle Halliday Westbrook
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Time Lapse
by playgoer
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Kelley Kingston-Strayer’s "A Southern Exposure" follows a small-town Southern girl as she makes a move to the big city of New York and then returns home years later, as the cycles of death and life play out. Her family consists of her grandmother and two eccentric elderly "aunts," who provide most of the humor of this play, which follows the pattern of a raucously funny first act succeeded by a more poignant and serious second act.

The action plays out on a set designed by Tanya Moore that contains two wall segments against a black background. The stage right segment is on wheels, allowing one side to represent a New York apartment and the other side to represent a bedroom in the house containing the kitchen indicated by the stage left segment. This other segment contains a window looking out into the yard of the house, with the painted scenery behind the window frame nicely swapped out at intermission as the season changes from fall to winter. Furniture fills out the kitchen and bedroom, with slight alterations made to the set and to Tanya Moore’s props during the scene changes.

Bob Peterson’s sound design covers the scene changes with appropriate song selections. Gary White’s lighting design highlights action occurring on either half of the stage. Brandi Kilgore’s blocking occasionally causes slight sightline issues for people at the extreme sides of the audience, but the flow is active enough that no scene becomes static. Tanya Caldwell’s costumes suit each individual character and scene, adding to the visual interest of the show.

Director Brandi Kilgore has gotten outstanding performances out of all her actresses, and has added in comic bits that underscore their quirks. There are lots of emotional levels in the production, a sure mark of hands-on direction. In the comic roles of Mattie (Marla Krohn) and Ida Mae (Glory Hanna), Ms. Kilgore has cast women ideally suited to the dotty, ditzy optimism of Mattie and the suspicious sarcasm of Ida Mae. As Callie Belle, the young woman who moves to New York, she has cast Katherine Waddell, an actress with nice range and an appealing stage presence who admirably fills the role of a Kentucky native (dialect coaching by Cat Roche). Merle Halliday Westbrook plays Hattie, the grandmother, and her heartfelt emotion and energy help carry the play to its conclusion.

The final moment of the play, however, is probably the least successful moment of the show. The play has started with Mattie watching a baseball game on TV, and the final moment is of a group hug accompanied by a sound clip of a baseball game. Since baseball is entirely tangential to the story, this sound clip seems to come out of the blue. It’s the sort of touch a playwright might think provides a nice "bookend" for the play, but that doesn’t work in practice.

"A Southern Exposure" is a delightful production that solidifies Lionheart’s reputation of presenting quality community theatre. I wish I cared more about Callie Belle’s twenty-something growing pains and romantic involvements, but the reactions of her family to the vicissitudes of her big-city life more than make up for the banality of her life’s journey. When she returns home at the age of thirty, we’re left with the feeling that she’s grown as a human being in the time she’s been away, having been lifted up by life rather than having been ground down. And an audience member will feel a bit uplifted when leaving the theater too. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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