KPBS AIRDATE: February 18, 2005
Some people know their destiny, almost from birth. And they feel compelled to fulfill it. There’s passion in the pursuit – whether it’s cooking or playing guitar, seeking revenge or establishing a homeland. That passion is palpable in three very different plays – one fiction, one fable, one factual.
The truth-tinged invention is “I Just Stopped By to See the Man,” by Stephen Jeffreys. It concerns an aging blues-man who’s retreated to a shack in the Mississippi Delta, letting people think he died in a car crash with his wife long ago. He’s buried himself in the Bible, and in a church that considers blues ‘the devil’s music.’ But his whole peaceful world, and that of his activist, on-the-lam daughter, is shaken when he’s found by an intrepid English rock-star who’s made millions from the old man’s music. He convinces Jesse to pick up his guitar again. Who’s helping or taking advantage of whom here? And who’s losing out when an artistic gift goes unused, a destiny thwarted? Director Seret Scott has created a beautiful, moving production at the Globe, lovingly designed, outstandingly performed. Each of the excellent actors – Henry Afro-Bradley, Manoel Felciano and Tracey Leigh — takes a heart-wrenching turn at the blues. And that’s the soul of The Man and the play.
At Sledgehammer Theatre, we see another creative talent submerged. In “When the World Was Green, A Cook’s Fable,” theater groundbreakers Sam Shepard and Joe Chaikin introduce us to a former chef, who’s in prison for murder. Turns out it was the wrong man, not the one he spent his life pursuing in a 200 year-old family feud. He’s visited by a young reporter, who wants his story. Searching for the father she never knew, hers could also be a tale of revenge. But in their joint journeys of the mind, she coaxes him back to his delight in the look, smell, feel and preparation of food. Kirsten Brandt’s precise direction of this enigmatic, elegiac play highlights the lush, poetic imagery. As a broken man and a lost woman, Jim Chovick and Laura Lee Juliano jointly find redemption. The recaptured cooking is the catalyst.
No one could keep the indomitable Golda Meir from fulfilling her destiny. Once she latched onto her Zionistic zeal, she was an unstoppable force of nature. A Russian immigrant with only an 8th grade Milwaukee education, her fervor and charisma catapulted her to the prime ministry of Israel. Last fall, “Golda’s Balcony” became the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history. Tovah Feldshuh’s brilliant, soul-stirring performance reveals the genius of the woman, the actor, the Irish-Catholic playwright, William Gibson, and theater itself.
It’s my destiny to pass along the passion of theater. It’s your good fortune to see it.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.