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A CurtainUp Review

Alligator Tales

Anne Galjour's loving look at life in a Cajon community deep in the heart of the Louisiana bayou where she herself was born, features a cast of eight characters, the key ones being. . .

Grady and Rosetta Cheramie, he who goes to work on an oil rig to realize his dream of having an alligator farm and she with a penchant for mouth-watering Cajun dishes, (like alligator tails), as well as home decorating.

Inez and Sherelle Dantin, the sisters who live next door and have the most fully rounded, joyful and sad tales to tell

Ursus Arceneaux who's been struck by lightning and understands and loves Sherelle who's been struck by another kind of lightning, cancer.

Web Pitre who wants to buy the Dantin sisters fishing camp and turns out to be the only sinner amongst these very earthy saints.

The two major forces intruding into these simple yet colorful lives are nature and businessmen drawn to the bayou not for its natural beauty and unique cuisine but the sweet smell of oil to be drilled from its soil.

Galijour's paints her landscape and its people with language often filled with wonderful images. There's Sherelle's description of Ursus coming to her to dress his wounds after a storm: "He looked like a wire haired pig the way his face was pressed against the window." The tougher and Inez on a fishing outing with the boy she took into her generous heart describes how "his line flew like a wish." When he asks how he came to her he says "you came from a hurricane and it took all that rain and all that wind to blow you to me."

In its setting and characters and the occasional poetry of its language, Alligator Tales, brings to mind the people in John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat. It's graced with humor and darkened by pain. The trouble is that this production begs for at least one other actor to carry the burden of all these parts. Galijour is gifted impersonator but while she's fine at delineating the three main female characters, the male characters all sound alike and demand too great a stretch on the part of the audience.

Director Sharon Ott has directed Alligator Tales with a fine sense of its connection to nature's beauties and cruelties. I admire her risk-taking decision to make no attempt to give this monodrama at least the semblance of a conventional play with the help of any props to make up for the lack of at least one other actor; still a few concessions to visuals would have helped deflect the sense of being at a staged story telling hour.

Kate Edmunds' set is serviceable-- a weathered wood floor, fence and single piece of furniture --a chair-- and a background scrim that shifts once from a skyline to the encroaching oil rigs. Yet it isn't particularly suggestive of the Louisiana wetlands but could be almost any simple surrounded-by-water area. The single dress worn throughout the telling of these tales hardly strikes one as warranting a costume design credit, though Laura Hazlett is listed in this capacity in the program.

No doubt, this play which began as a one-acter and has been performed and praised elsewhere will travel well because it requires so little set-up baggage and just one performance fee. But oh how it makes one wish for a turnaround in the economic climate so that these one-person performance pieces would be the exception to the production of full-featured plays. Happily, Ms. Ott will be directing such a play next month at the Public Theatre (The Ballad of Yachiyo) and I look forward to seeing her work with a full cast of actors and not just characters in search of more than one interprative voice.

For information about the Manhattan Theatre Club's season, subscriptions, etc, check out the MTC's Web Site

Written by and starring Anne Galjour
Directed by Sharon Ott
Set Design: Kate Edmund
Costume Design: Laura Hazlett Manhattan Theatre Club - Stage II:
West 55th St. (581-1212). Performances begin 9/30/97-12/07/97; opens 10/21
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer 10/22/97

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