By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal
“B Flat, sometimes the world don’t always seem fair, but it’s all we got to work with.”
B Flat quoting Miss Gertrude in “Second Samuel”
“Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness, those are life-altering lessons.”
I love live theater. Whether it’s community, traveling or Broadway matters not. It’s all important and necessary to make my world complete.
When I saw “The Lion King” at The Orpheum in Memphis, I had tears in my eyes simply because I was overwhelmed by the wonder of the costumes. When I sat on the third row of the St. James Theatre in New York City and watched Patti Lupone belt out some of my favorite songs from “Gypsy,” I had a lump in my throat.
When I saw my friend Cheryl reprise the role her late mama had played in “Steel Magnolias,” I fought back tears.
But last Tuesday evening, as I watched a rehearsal of Tupelo Community Theatre’s upcoming production of “Second Samuel,” I spent much of the second act crying.
No, the show is not a tragedy.
Billed as a Southern comedy, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play by Atlanta’s Pamela Parker may well be the most powerful piece of theater I have ever seen.
But as mighty as the manuscript may be, I’m not sure if reading the playwright’s words alone would have elicited from me such fits of laughter, flashes of fury and moments of weeping.
“Second Samuel” is an amazing vehicle. But there’s a phenomenal group of folks who breathe life into the residents of Second Samuel, Ga., and a very capable director, Jonathan Martin, to help lead the way.
I wish I had room to tell you something wonderful about every cast member – it truly is a remarkable cast.
The four women who spend most of their stage time at the Change Your Life Hair and Beauty Shop are a force with which to be reckoned. Kudos to Jonathan for such fine casting.
The tension between snooty Jimmy Deeane (Liz Dawson) and Marcela (Jennifer Cummings) will have you hooting heartily; the sea-change in timid Ruby (Allana Austin) will have you cheering loudly; and when Omaha (Suzanne Oakley) tries to tell the ladies a surprising secret, well, just hold on – you are in for some rip-roaring fun.
Not to neglect the men who hang out at the Bait & Brew, they each have their own moment on stage. You’ll bust a gut over Bobby Geno’s June and wish you could beat the tar out of Kelly Mims’ bigoted Mr. Mosel.
Mostly you’ll be in awe of Todd Barnett’s portrayal of the beloved B-Flat who, despite some unnamed disabilities, is the wisest person in town. If you watch closely, the talented Todd will disappear and you will believe totally in B-Flat.
“Second Samuel” is about bigotry toward anyone who seems different and fear of those things folks simply don’t – or won’t – understand. But it’s also about acceptance and friendship. And learning how to dance with diversity.
“Second Samuel” is one of those works that has the power to change hearts.
Go see it. Please.