Home  >  Arts

Cultural District

Surveying our ecletic arts scene, from the galleries to the stage.

Theater review: ‘Spunk’ at WaterTower Theatre

Spunk

Through May 4

WaterTower Theatre

15650 Addison Road

Addison

$22-$40

972-450-6232; www.watertowertheatre.org


Posted 3:43pm on Tuesday, Apr. 22, 2014

George C. Wolfe skewered some African-American tropes in his 1986 play The Colored Museum. Just a few years later, he paid homage to the stories of an early African-American literary giant, Zora Neale Hurston, by celebrating her vivid prose in his play Spunk.

As the Blues Speak Woman (Liz Mikel) and Guitar Man (Kevin MacIntosh) sing in the prologue, there may be blues, grit, spit and pain in these stories, but there’s also spunk. In that, these stories speak of the African-American experience, but they also go well beyond into the realm of being human. It’s a spirit that play captures marvelously, and so does Akin Babatunde’s production at WaterTower Theatre in Addison.

On scenic designer Jeffrey Schmidt’s runway set — the Addison Theatre Centre space can be configured in different ways, and here we have a thrust for the first time in a while — the five actors (plus the musician) play out the stories, with four of them merely called “The Folk” (Joshua Bridgewater, Tiffany D. Hobbs, Marcus M. Mauldin and Calvin Roberts).

In Sweat, an abusive man (Mauldin) gets more than he bargains for when he torments his wife (Hobbs) with a rattlesnake. In Story in Harlem Slang, two zoot-suited male prostitutes (Bridgewater and Mauldin) meet their match when a flirty woman (Hobbs) does something they didn’t expect. And in The Gilded Six-Bits, the lives of a young couple (Hobbs and Roberts) are disrupted, and a heart is left broken, then healed again.

There are some sweet moments, but again, the grit and the blues are front and center, and Babatunde paces the show so that we feel every emotion right along with these characters. Wolfe’s affection for Hurston’s writing and characters comes through, and the actors have fun without letting us see them sweat.

Mikel is always engaging, and here she puts that bluesy gospel voice to good use. Hobbs deserves singling out for the range of emotions her characters express, and she makes each one of them distinct and honest. We love all three of them, even in the third story, in which her character is not the most sympathetic.

An extra mention must be made of Schmidt’s set, the boards of which reveal nooks and crannies and make for small and handy changes in sets and props (by Gillian Salerno-Rebic). Michael Robinson’s costumes hit the right tones, too.

All in all, this is one of WaterTower’s strongest productions in years.

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?


Hey there. or join DFW.com. Your account. Log out.

Remember me