Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Alice Seed

‘THE ALICE SEED’ at CPT, a conjure-wives tale

‘THE ALICE SEED,’ now in a world premiere production at Cleveland Public Theatre, is a perfect offering for the Halloween season. On the surface, as explained by local playwright Michael Sepesy, “the play is about the ferocity of a mother’s love for her child. On another level, it’s about the acceptance of loss and mortality.” In addition, there is a spooky element to the goings on.

It is a tale of loss and the powerful desire to hold on to our most cherished ones. In this case, a child who has died of cancer. A child who died in a hospital alone as her exhausted parents had gone home, after a long vigil, to get some rest. The feelings of guilt for abandoning the youngster weighs heavily on their hearts.
To gain a full understanding there are some factors that must be explored. The play takes place in the south. Some people of that section of the country, believe supernatural events affect the lives of real people. The term for these events is laid in the tradition of “conjure-wife” tales. Or, as it would be termed in other environs, “old wives tales.”

Questions arise. Can someone come back from the dead? What would drive a person to make a pact with the devil? Is the mother delusional? Can these people ever gain internal peace?

Sepesy has said, with a view to potential audience members, “If people like suspense, there’s suspense. If they like horror, there are elements of horror. If people like lyrical plays and metaphors, or weird, or humor, or family dramas, or philosophy, or emotional works — there’s something in the play for everyone.”

The CPT production, which is directed by Alison Garrigan, fulfills the requirements of the play. The acting is strong and the production well paced.

Jackie Cummins shows the right maniacal focus as the grief and guilt-ridden mother. Mark Mayo, as her husband, stays on course. Michael Andrews-Hinders, the local law-enforcement officer, who has endured the death of his wife, develops a clear characterization.

Trad Burns’ set design sometimes gets in the way of the action. Combining so many settings within a specific confine leads to some confusion. Maybe having a blank stage, with some suggestive setting pieces would have worked better.

Capsule judgement: ‘THE ALICE SEED’ is an interesting piece of theatre which will appeal to audiences who are willing to stretch their imaginations and accept the unexplainable.