Back from The Carpetbagger's Children at Ford's Theatre, a Texas based 1930s memory piece by Horton Foote.
Ford's brings back special memories for me and an anniversary of sorts (though not the day exactly). It was a bright, crisp Sunday afternoon in a February far far away that brought me the bright, crisp off-key dancing and braying laugh of Edward Duke in Jeeves Takes Charge, the "one-man, two-act, 12-character, award-winning comedy tour de force," if he does say so himself.
So sitting in the balcony before the beginning of a play I knew nothing about, I was re-imagining my Edward and his many voices and faces, merry costumes and clever scene changes and all, enchanting me for a couple of hours and embodying the storytelling genius of Wodehouse.
So why did the format of Carpetbagger make me so impatient? The scene was static, with three actresses portraying sisters, each in her own panel of the triptych of a Texas cotton farm homestead, each taking a turn telling the story of their family to the audience but almost never interacting with each other. Yet each took on the voice and personality of the characters whose stories they were telling.
Storytelling with impersonations is exactly what Edward did for Jeeves; it is not a particularly original format. But with the Carpetbagger's girls, I was having a few of those "Why are you telling me all this?" moments and shifting in my seat a bit waiting for the plot to begin.
When I relaxed into the format a bit (thanks for reminding me, Edward), I let the power of the personalities on stage persuade me their story was worth the telling, even if I didn't get it at first.
One sister was constantly pressed to sing "The Clanging Bell of Time," or whatever the dashed name of the song was, which became an anthem for the passage of the family members' lives.
And, like Charming Billy over at Round House, the play seemed to say we are surrounded by our memories as we live through them, even if we cannot directly interact with the actors in our dramas.