‘20th Century Blues’ in Nevada City is witty and incisive
Special to Prospector
The latest production from LeGacy Presents, “20th Century Blues,” is a witty, clever, truthful look at friendships and how they develop, morph, clash and connect over a period of 40 years.
Well-performed and executed, the play is an opportunity to reflect on the vagaries of living, aging, dying and everything in between, with some chuckles about it all mixed in.
Written by Susan Miller, an Obie award winning playwright, “20th Century Blues” addresses themes of friendship, careers, marriage, parents and children for a group of four “60-somethings,” but is particularly about aging. The playwright tries to demonstrate that when women turn 60 they don’t suddenly become sexless, charmless, invisible. These are real women who have experienced a lifetime of joy and disappointment, women we all recognize and know, even see in ourselves.
The four main protagonists, who became friends after spending a night together in jail following a protest in the ‘70s, are: Danny, a clever and acclaimed photographer who has been offered a NY Museum of Modern Art retrospective; Sil, a realtor who is divorced and works hard to stay solvent, but worries about how aging will affect her sales career; Mac, an investigative reporter who is African American, lesbian and is being downsized from her long-time newspaper job by the move to digital media; and Gabby, a veterinarian who rescues animals and worries about her husband dying. Additional players are Danny’s mother, Bess, who is 91 and in the early stages of dementia, and Danny’s adopted adult son, Simon.
Once a year, the four friends meet to catch up and have a group photo taken by Danny. As they revive cherished memories and reveal their hopes and fears, the women’s shared history emerges gradually, like a photo developing in a darkroom — these women fully see each other. Miller’s script is astute and incisive, with clever lines and unvarnished truths.
Performed by Kim Wellman as Danny, Carolyn Winters as Sil, Kristine Alcamo as Mac, and Nancy Haffey as Gabby, the women are believable and warm, who relate both lovingly and heatedly to each other, as good friends do. Sue LeGate Halford’s turn as the forgetful Bess illustrates that aging doesn’t have to be fraught with anger. And Chase Coney’s Simon is a caring, sweet young man of whom any mama could be proud.
Director John Bivens has effectively focused his actors to emphasize both the fondness and harshness of friendships — the reality of friendships — and brought out the essential nature of each player. Aided by the effective set designed by Bivens and Les Solomon, the action never feels static.
Being of a “certain age” myself, I related to the writing and characters in this play. They felt real and human. It’s also notable to see a play about older women — that’s not a usual movie or theatrical topic.
This is a very good production that will give you chuckles, reminisces and emotional moments. Go to see it at the Nevada Theatre through June 23.
Hindi Greenberg recognized many of the issues and relationships in this play, having lived through the same times as these characters. But perhaps she’s a bit more well-adjusted…..?
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