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A Thousand Circlets

a World Premiere
CATEGORY :
by Theroun D'Arcy Patterson

COMPANY : Essential Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4085

SHOWING : July 14, 2011 - July 29, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A classic new American drama, which tells the story of a prominent African-American family that has reached the pinnacle of their professional success, poised to achieve their greatest triumph – only to face the threat of having it all torn down by the illness of the father and the passions of the past. Winner of the 2011 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award, the only prize exclusively dedicated to the work of Georgia writers.


CAST & CREW LIST
Writer/Composer Theroun Patterson
Director Betty Hart
Rebecca Leighton Precious Bright
Caleb Leighton Tony Goolsby
Liz Kensey Leighton Yvonne Singh
Grey Leighton Olubajo Sonubi
Earl Leighton Tony Vaughn
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REVIEWS

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And then ...?
by Dedalus
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
4.5
Earl Leighton (Tony Vaughn) is the master of his universe. A celebrated architect, he is about to leave his mark on the Manhattan skyline, as his “Magnum Opus” design is soon to begin its construction to the sky. But he discovers he no longer knows how to tie his necktie. And so begins “A Thousand Circlets,” Theroun D’Arcy Patterson exquisite and moving new play about the onset of Alzheimer’s and how it tugs and tears at the family ties that bind.

For Earl and Liz Leighton, it is a second marriage. She watched her first husband waste away with cancer, and she is not about to go through that again. Of course, this leads to denial. All Earl needs to do is pull himself up and buckle down – this is not an illness, but a personal moral lapse! They each have grown children from their first marriages who all seem to be going through crises of their own. Earl’s decline sets off a thousand ripples through the family, ripples that cross and converge and threaten to forever disrupt the calm surface of this seemingly tight-knit family.

Mr. Patterson is an Atlanta actor who is beginning a second career as a writer. “A Thousand Circlets” shows him to have a confident command of language, of character, and of structure. His dialog is equally at home with lies, silences, and heartfelt revelations. It is character-specific, and drives this play with sudden wit, carefully-wrought obfuscation, and lyrical flights of poetry.

And these characters are beautifully drawn, at once individualistic and generic. By this, I mean the five characters have enough individuality that they are unique and fully constructed. At the same time, the problems they face, the reactions they show, are recognizable as our own. Though this is an African-American family, this play would work with a cast of any ethnicity. This is not to downplay their essential African-American quality – the play would work equally well, but it would be essentially different. The cast and the director have imbued the production with their own stamp, with their own cultural identity that would necessarily change with another cast.

For the most part, this group of actors captures these characters and makes their story compelling and recognizable. Aside from some (rare and short-lived) mush-mouth monotony, Mr. Patterson’s words come from their mouths naturally and forcefully. Mr. Vaughn is the classic alpha lion, refusing to go gently into that mental fog. Liz, played by the brilliant Yvonne Singh, is a difficult woman struggling with reliving the agonies that ended her first marriage. That she walks out at one point alienates her from many in the audience (shouts of “Bitch! and “Traitor!” came from a few enraged voices in the house), but I felt nothing but sympathy for her. Yes, her denial and hardness is at first shocking and cruel, but that made the revelations of what drove those actions all the more moving and understandable.

As the half-siblings, Tony Goolsby, Precious Bright, and Olubajo Sonubi each had their own stories and conflicts and secrets, many of which need to be set aside as their father’s condition becomes more and more apparent. Enough of their background remains unsaid, merely hinted at, that they emerge as intriguing characters in their own right.

The Essential “repertory” design makes way here for a platform with set pieces, alternately suggesting the Leighton’s comfortable home, Earl’s office, and airport waiting area, a hotel room, and all were non-specific enough to carry the weight of flashbacks and flights of imagination. The staging by director Betty Hart is fluid and fast-paced, the wide range of emotion orchestrated for maximum effect.

Every family has gone through the trial of watching a loved one descend into a mental fog, a strange limbo where faces aren’t recognized, where time has rolled back to a happier era, where simple tasks become arduous trials. The final scene of the play, where Liz returns and calmly describes how she will care for Earl at each step of his journey, is one of the most moving scenes you’re likely to see, both in its articulation of the devastation of Alzheimer’s, and in our realization of the price each “And then?” will cost Liz and the family. Although we are spared seeing Earl’s full deterioration, this scene brings home to us what will come, and the sadness and love that underscore the Leightons’ emotional preparation is simply devastating.

“A Thousand Circlets” is a powerful and moving piece of theatre, and Mr. Patterson has shown himself to be not merely a playwright of promise, but one of promise already realized.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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