Pie Supper, ending its run this weekend at the CAN-ACT theater in Karcher Mall, is a strange little play without much plot and possessing adult content that might make some viewers uncomfortable. The play seems an unfortunate choice for the milestone 50th production for this creative and hard-working theatrical group.
The story is about an Ozark community that is suffering through a destructive drought. Conditions are so bad that many of the residents are migrating to California to seek work and a better life. As a farewell celebration, a group of women, some of whom are leaving and some of whom are staying, prepare a pie supper for themselves and their neighbors, while their men folk are out fishing for the supper's main course.
The rustic set, designed and built by Marilyn Gunderson, almost steals the show with its wonderful unpainted wooden fence and house, a clothesline festooned with underwear, and even a rusty Red Flyer wagon parked in a corner.
The women chat, gossip and reveal their characters in slow, almost dreamily choreographed scenes of bean snapping, and discussions of packing problems, pet pigs, and the heat, which seems to ooze from the stage, enervating the audience as well as the actresses. Perhaps Director MaLinda Gunderson allows us to get acquainted with the women in this leisurely fashion because she knows she has a firecracker actress, Leah Rose Reynolds, ready to explode with problems for the entire cast of characters.
Reynolds--who portrays the teenage Lavinia like an older "bad seed" child with a hyper imagination that suits her blazing red hair--has an expressive face and vibrant energy that hones her glare and glower to perfection. Lavinia hates any kind of work, the heat, her hometown and the thought of being left behind when most of the townsfolk head for the "promised land" of California. Unfortunately for her, her father is one of the few impoverished locals who can't/won't consider leaving town. Her agitated mother, Eula, is dramatically played by Marilyn Gunderson with a high-strung vibe, betraying a temper constantly on the edge of violence.
Shane C. Morford portrays the hard-working, eager-to-please Tommy with a nervous, slow-spoken drawl that indicates he may be simple, but he understands more than people think. Morford endows his character--who worries about "being put away" when his ailing mother dies--with a delightful charm and cunning. Tommy's tales of how he is teased and mistreated by other children are quietly heartbreaking, and introduce a fear that something bad may happen to Tommy.
Lydia M. Blair is strong and decisive as the kindhearted Mavis, whose husband fled to Brazil years ago, (probably to avoid these painful pie suppers more than to dump his wife), and she takes Tommy under her wing--in an unusual way.
Sharona Dringle also gives a moving performance as the heartbroken mother of June (Rachel Edwards) and Lelefaye, (Jennifer Potcher), all of whom are reluctant to move away from their ancestral home, no matter how modest it may be. Heidi Kasper is a subtly perky Leatta, a character who who knows how to make the most of her attractiveness and her piety.
At the pie supper, when Lavinia stops sulking about her thwarted desire for ice cream, she makes up a story about being impregnated by an angel (this is one kid you don't even want to read the Bible, lest she get ideas). Her mother, already on edge, goes berserk and attacks Tommy, the mentally-challenged hired man, and then her daughter, too. These scenes are so riveting, the audience forgets about the heat and the boring lives these folks lead.
Pie Supper, written by Le Wilhelm.
Directed for CAN-ACT by MaLinda Gunderson.
Presented by CAN-ACT theater, upstairs at Karcher Mall, 1509 Caldwell Blvd., Nampa, 442-0676.
7 p.m. Thursday, May 18; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; Tickets $7 on Thursday; $8 on Friday and Saturday.
For reservations, call 442-0676 or visit www.can-act.org.