My thoughts on Alabaster by Audrey Cefaly at Kitchen Dog Theater...or not so sweet home Alabama...or the tale of the lonely goatherd.
by Doug Sturdivant
There’s strange and wonderful magic going on at the Kitchen Dog these days. Audrey Cefaly’s Alabaster, masterfully directed by Clare Shaffer, is a near flawless production of a tale of overcoming loss, the redemptive power of love, and talking goats.
Alice (Chase Crossno) the photojournalist daughter of a famous photographer a la Richard Avedon, comes to Alabaster, Alabama to photograph June (Kristi Funk Dana) for a book she is doing about women with physical scars and the resultant emotional scars engendered. June has survived a tornado that killed her father, mother, and baby sister and was almost killed herself in a collapsing structure. An attraction develops between the two women and June soon has Alice revealing her own tragic past and the effects of growing up with a domineering father. Crossno and Dana are so thoroughly convincing as Alice and June, that I often felt as if I were eavesdropping instead of watching a play. Actors of their skill level have an almost scary ability to make you believe and we ache for and with the characters they create.
The talking goats are Bib (Lana K. Hoover), the nanny goat, who doesn’t have many lines, but does have a terrific bleat, and her daughter Weezy (Tina Parker), a prescient, foul mouthed goat who seems to have insight into the souls of humans. Parker eats lots of greens and takes a good chunk out of the scenery. This is a part actors would kill to play and, using the current vernacular, Parker definitely kills it. Although the goats are often the source of humor, they also create some truly poignant moments. Weezy, for all her profanity spouting and put downs, shows a genuine affection for June and there is a remarkable scene that is a mini-masterpiece of acting and directorial skill in which Bib transitions from life to death. I never imagined I could get misty eyed over a goat’s passing, but Hoover and Shaffer did me in.
The scenic, lighting, and sound design here are on a level I have rarely seen outside of NYC. Claire Floyd Devries has designed a two level set that includes both Jane’s room and the goat house. Everything about this set is true to life and this wonderfully detailed set is one reason why the play, even with the fanciful elements, is grounded in reality. Props designer Cindy Ernst Godinez enhances the set with many pieces of amazing folk art supposedly created by the character of June. I hope Kitchen Dog will auction these off after the run. I want one. Lisa Miller’s lighting accentuates the story, and together with sound designer Claire Carson, they create a thunderstorm that is actually frightening. Kari Makoutz’s costumes adeptly delineate the characters by giving June simple outfits and Alice a more upper middle class look. And I particularly liked Weezy’s bib overalls.
Alabaster was an unexpected treat for me. I was wholly taken in by this tale of loss, love, and goats. Cefaly has infused her characters with life through her obvious gift for dialogue. This is one of those shows where acting, directing, and design come together to create a piece of unforgettable art. Look for this production on many Best of 2020 lists. I know it’s going on mine.
Reviews, previews, and other coverage of Shaffer shows.