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Theater Review: May and Raleigh’s love story continues in ‘Rock City’ at Venice Theatre

By Kim Cool

Venice Gondolier

January 12, 2019

In “See Rock City,” in the Pinkerton at Venice Theatre, we are reunited with May (Cheyanne Alford) and Raleigh (Jim Griesmeyer) who met on a train in “Last train to Nibroc,” which is part one of a trilogy by playwright Arlene Hutton.

Raleigh had been given a medical discharge from the army. May had plans to be a missionary. They were neighboring towns in Tennessee.

Despite their different backgrounds, their relationship clicked, When we meet them again in “See Rock City” they are newly married. She is the principal of the local elementary school and he has been selling stories off and on to magazines. World War II is raging and the newlyweds are living with her parents in what appears to be a nice middle-class home. We never meet her father. He seems to spend most of his time in his workshop listening to latest war news on the radio. Her mother, Mrs. Gill (Judy Tilley), is a typical (for the time) middle class stay-at home mother who keeps the home running smoothly and sends regular packages to May’s brother Charlie who is in the service. The Gills are Methodists.

Mrs. Gill has time to offer tea and cookies when Raleigh’s mother, Mrs. Brummett (Maureen Young) stops by. Mrs. Gill is from a far more humble background. She is a Southern Baptist from a working class family. Not well educated, she thinks her son’s fits (he has Epilepsy) are his way of getting out of doing any meaningful work and that he will never amount to anything as a writer.

When May and Raleigh give her a birdhouse acquired on vacation and she learns that they gave a tea towel to Mrs. Gill, she chastises them for not buying a birdhouse for Mrs. Gill as well.

May loves her job. As Raleigh seems to be getting nothing but rejection slips from the magazines, she puts on a stoic front yet it seems that this could be a major crack in the relationship. Mrs. Brummett is no help as she continues to belittle her son, thinking he should get a real job and that the couple should start to have children too.

One of the bright spots in the story is Mrs. Gill’s narration about her family’s dog that used to go to church with them every Sunday. Meant to give an idea for a possible novel to Raleigh, this was a light-hearted break in this story about a somewhat mismatched couple during a serious time in history.

Ever the lady. Mrs. Gill is always gracious, at least until she learns, as the war comes to an end, that Charlie was one of the last fatalities. She is distraught of course.

Mrs. Brummett remains simply simple, superbly acted by Young right down to her rolled down stockings, country accent and simple mannerisms.

Tilley’s portrayal of the other mother is equally well done. You can’t help but admire this fine intelligent lady who welcomes Raleigh as her son-in-law and has no problem with his affliction nor with his desire to be a writer.

Griesmeyer also makes the most of his role, as does Alford, especially when she relates the story, near the end of the play, about her changing situation at the school, because the war is over.

“See Rock City” was directed by Peter Ivanov, who has a string of top credentials beginning with his birth on the Ringling Circus train to graduation from the Asolo Conservatory of Actor Training and work as an Equity actor all over the country and a college drama professor.

The set, the front porch of the Gill’s home in Rock City, was by Brian Freeman and the period-perfect costumes were the work of Adam-Bobby  Farman. Lighting was by Cindy Carruth with sound by Casey Dieter. Mike Campbell is the production stage manager.

Equal parts of the various skills needed to make for a great production paid off, resulting in a fine production in the Pinkerton.

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