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Morningside

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Topher Payne

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 5179

SHOWING : October 26, 2017 - November 12, 2017

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

This shrewd and razor-sharp play from award-winning playwright Topher Payne takes us to a sunny, spring afternoon in the Morningside neighborhood of Atlanta where different generations are thrown together to test the bonds of family and friendship.

Imagine: a baby shower, nine women with secrets, and a case of champagne.

This is about to be the MOTHER of all baby showers.

"The Women" meets "Steel Magnolias" meets "The Real Housewives"...what could possibly go wrong?


CAST & CREW LIST
Elinor LaLa Cochran
Sophie Kelly Criss
Clancy Kate Donadio
Grace Shelly McCook
Roxanne Ellen McQueen
Mackenzie Stacy Melich
Felicia Keena Redding-Hunt
Devyn Gina Rickicki
Louise Ann Wilson
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Not Morningside Heights
by playgoer
Monday, November 13, 2017
4.5
In a Topher Payne formula that harkens back to "Beached Wails," "Morningside" starts with an uproariously funny first act that introduces us to a quasi-dysfunctional group of women, then devolves in the second act to more serious discussions, primarily in two-person scenes. It’s not a bad formula at all, but tends to stretch out the proceedings a little longer than one might wish.

A gimmick in this male-written production is that the creative team and cast are all women. Kat Conley has created a lovely, upscale home centered around the kitchen, albeit with an odd angle in the upscale wall and with a valence of foliage and tree branches that Piper Kirchhofer’s lighting design illuminates too clearly (illuminating all the action nicely too). Kacie Willis’ sound design doesn’t have a lot to do, but does it well. Emmie Tuttle’s costumes are appropriate for all the characters, inappropriate as they might be for attendance at a baby shower.

Shannon Eubanks has blocked the action to keep everyone in the large cast clearly in view at all times, aided by the multi-level set design. Her greater achievement, though, is assembling nine phenomenal comic actresses into a cohesive ensemble. Not everyone is cast according to her typical strengths, with Gina Rickicki, capable of supremely idiosyncratic silliness, giving as constrained a performance as I’ve ever seen from her, and with naturally elegant Kate Donadio playing her wackily contentious sister. I could easily imagine those two swapping roles in an equally successful production. Then too I could imagine LaLa Cochran and Shelly McCook swapping roles, Kelly Criss and Stacy Melich swapping, and Ellen McQueen and Ann Wilson swapping, with no diminution of quality. Keena Redding Hunt, as the sole black in the cast, couldn’t swap roles without affecting the relationships described in the script.

Act one sets up the situation of a baby shower, hosted by the baby’s future grandmother, that is occurring in the immediate aftermath of the grandmother splitting from her husband. We get introduced to all the characters with tons of funny lines that inspire laugh after laugh. It is only when the last character is introduced (the wacky sister played by Ms. Donadio) that a true plot conflict is introduced. We get to a highpoint of contention, and then the act ends.

Act two continues from the same spot, but trades barbs and gags for humor-tinged, serious discussion of issues like abortion, failed IVF procedures, debilitating disease, suicide, racism, and failures of friendship, motherhood, career, and marriage. It’s a litany of heavy stuff that seems intended to give the play some heft and contemporary relevance. It’s a bit too much of a contrast to the situation comedy fluff of the first act, but all relationships are resolved satisfactorily. Enough funny lines are sprinkled in to lighten the heaviest moments, and enough emotional resonance is invested in the characters’ relationships to keep their interactions engaging. It’s a deftly written comedy that has been packing in the audiences in another Topher Payne/Shannon Eubanks triumph. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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