If you traveled in the States prior to the 60s, you probably stayed at small roadside motel quite similar to the Bluebonnet Court. If it had a neon sign, it wasn’t working properly. You could pull your car up next to your cabin. You may have even met a Lila Jean Webb or Roy Glen Webb. Welcome to playwright Zsa Zsa Gershick’s Austin, Texas, circa spring of 1944.
Helen Burke (Wendy Waddell), New Yorker, Jewish, young, and attractive, has met car trouble. She’s stuck in one of the units of the Bluebonnet Court. Lila Jean (Jo Anne Glover) runs the motel. She is also trying to keep her damaged war vet husband, Roy Glenn (Christopher Buess), from going over the edge and staying constantly drunk.
Helen has entered a twilight zone. Roy Glen is mentally battered from the war, he’s a racist, anti-Semitic, and can’t even relate to his wife except through anger and physical abuse. Lila Jean is the perfect Texas hostess filled with southern hospitality and a gracious smile, all of which are hiding the pain of an uncaring damaged husband and the desire for just a smidgen of love.
Playwright Gershick fearlessly creates characters that are examining their own sexuality, examining their relationship to race and ethnicity, and experiencing the vast cultural differences created by geography and color. She contrasts clipped New York speak with Texas drawl, Yiddish with southern slang, northern ethos with southern and black ethos, and so much more. The clash of cultures is fascinating to watch unfold on Diversionary’s stage.
The motel maid, Orla Mae Bird (Monique Gaffney) is the proper black servant, saying nothing, always doing the bidding of her employer. She is so much more. She is self-educated, well-read, and interested in more than backwater Austin has to offer. There is also electricity between her and Helen. The contrast is astounding and it is lovely. Gaffney portrays to two sides of Orla Mae to perfection.
Leigh Scarritt plays the tragic Nanalu Branch. Nanalu plays life fast and loose. She boldly goes where disaster is sure to happen. A friend of Orla Mae, they advise each other. Nanalu doesn’t abide by good advice. She is a sight in her high, high heels and a drunken state.
The playwright offers a wonderful contrasting commentary, usually relegated to a sound track . . . live radio. Lisa Gorell-Getz and Fred Harlow provide on-onstage radio commentary as the actors search the dial for radio solace. They are pitch artists, radio preachers, storytellers, and much more. This delightful artifice works well. Preshow and intermission offers canned radio from the period – a nice touch.
While a serious drama, there are many hilarious scenes. Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg cast well and directed with just the right touch. Each of the cast knew their character well. Waddell, with the most subtle role, created a persona that we could easily relate to. After all her character was in an alien nation. Blue Bonnet Court deftly the explores some explosive issues. This is a production well worth your serious consideration. Don’t miss it.
Wendy Waddell, Monique Gaffney, Jo Anne Glover, Christopher Buess, Leigh Scarritt, Lisel Gorell-Getz, Fred Harlow
Original Scenic Design Joel Daavid, Adaptation Bret Young & Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, Lighting Design Mia Bane Jacobs & Jason Bieber, Costume Design Jennifer Brawn Gittings, Sound Design Rachel Le Vine, Properties Joel Daavid Missy Bradstreet, Prod SM Bret Young, SM Gwen Fish, AD Chelsea Whitmore, Sound Op/Asst House Mgr rob Norton
Author: Zsa Zsa Gershick
Director: Delicia Turner Sonnenberg
Date Reviewed: March 23, 2008
Dates: Thursday thru Sunday to April 13, 2008
Caution Guidance: Adult alternate lifestyle
Moxie Theatre & Diversionary Theatre co-production
4545 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA
Box Office Phone: 619 220-0097
Running Time: 117 minutes with a 15-minute intermission