Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Drama surges in Sturgeon Bay troupe’s ‘Alabama Bound’

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Drama surges in Sturgeon Bay troupe’s ‘Alabama Bound’

Five women solo in the Rogue Theater production.

PHOTO: The cast of Rogue Theater’s production of “Alabama Bound” consists of, clockwise from left, Carrie Counihan, Keri Grimsley, Reneé Kujawski, Lola DeVillers and Lori Wier. Rogue Theater photo

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Rogue Theater, a recent addition to theatrical adventures in this region, is presenting the stories of five women in “Alabama Bound” through July 27 at The Depot Performing Arts Center. Info: www.facebook.com/roguetheater.

Written by Alabama native Charlotte Higgins, “Alabama Bound” is a play in the sense that five scenes are enacted. One actor, one character, just a performer and the audience – the experience has a sizzle to it. The characters are interesting, and the performances are pithy. Stuart Champeau directs and helps the production (4 stars out of 5) achieve a consistency.

Charlotte Higgins has her own rule book. In one scene, the character speaks solely in her voice and reacts to others. In the four other scenes, the character takes on the voices of others around her, as if reading a short story. Some of Charlotte Higgins’ imagery is vivid. Alabama plays a role in the characters’ accent and place references – and one attitude in a dismissive comment about someone being from the North (and automatically a worthless creature) – though the stories could be set in many places.

The sequence:

- A 9-1-1 dispatcher, Dixie, is looking forward to R&R with her boyfriend – a bit of gambling and brandy – when she takes one last call before going off duty. The call is from a boy whose mother is screaming in the kitchen as she is being assaulted by a man. The fun-loving Dixie (Lori Wier) rides a mean rollercoaster. Her life changes on a dime. Dixie is fiery

- Evelyn (Lola DeVillers) assesses her five years in a rest home. We learn she has been dumped there by relatives and does not speak. We hear a gruff man speak to her and learn a tale of her husband. Evelyn boils slowly.

- Loretta (Reneé J. Kujawski) has gone through surgical challenges, and she is trapped caring for her ailing, insistent mother-in-law and unsympathetic husband. Loretta is fed-up angry and torn.

- Alice (Keri Grimsley) is a giddy beautician who gets a chance to attend (crash) a la-dee-dah benefit function in an eye-catching (though it sounds ghastly) dress. Alice is perky/pragmatic.

- Dominique (Carrie Counihan) is an inmate who retraces her path to prison. Her view is it was her destiny. Dominique is explosive behind a gentle exterior.

In each of the scenes, a woman has been done wrong by a man. The guys are bottom feeders. Theater needs drama and conflict to be theater, but the cumulative effect of “Alabama Bound” is a tone of man hating. That may be inadvertent, but it’s there.

“Alabama Bound” is for theatergoers who like to explore. It takes them to places they otherwise would not go, in this case, into the lives and thoughts of five women (from Alabama, viewed in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin). And there’s nothing quite like solo dramatic acting in a close space.

VENUE: The Depot Performing Arts Center, opened in November 2013 by Lola DeVillers and Stuart Champeau, is located in the former Ahnapee and Western Railway passenger train station. The building dates to 1900. Signs of that vintage are found in the sections of wood and terrazzo flooring found in the present-day seating area. The black box style theater seats approximately 50. The stage is rectangle that’s raised slightly. The functions of the main room of the building are a performance space, refreshment spot and display area on rear and side walls.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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