Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Blackberry Daze Showcases the Best and Worst of the Human Heart


A man is shot dead. This musical is not a classic whodunnit murder mystery, but we are greeted with the mystery of who shot playboy Herman Camm (T.C. Carson). You'll soon learn that it was very likely one of three women...nightclub Blues singer, and Herman's lover, Pearl (Brittany Inge), Herman's wife Mae Lou (Naomi Lavette), or Mae Lou's daughter Carrie (Ayana Reed). 

There's no shortage of drama in this show, but there are a few laughs along the way, too. And it's overflowing with talent!

Now in its final week at Horizon Theatre, Blackberry Daze is one of the finest plays of the summer, and a Suzi Awards recommended show!

Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney
Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney

I've been a Brittany Inge (Pearl) fan for some time now, but particularly for this show. Well, that's not true...she's AMAZING in every show I've seen her in (Father Comes Home From the Wars; Significant Other)! And what a spectacular voice! She's absolutely charming in real life, too.

In Blackberry Daze, Pearl may come across as flippant and carefree, but the acting is so perfectly nuanced that you almost don't know that the character has feelings that run incredibly deep. Deep enough to commit murder, perhaps.

One of the many things that I love about Brittany is that she wholeheartedly owns whatever role she's playing. From a tipsy, laughter-loving bridesmaid to an emotionally-wrought Civil War slave to a curves-in-all-the-right-places nightclub Blues singer, Brittany always delivers a superb performance.

Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney
Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney

If your heart doesn't break while watching this performance, you're just not human. The performances are so amazing, it throttles and breaks your heart. I've been called devoid of emotion while others have seen more than their share of emotion from me. This show had me in tears. But it gifted plenty of smiles and laughs, too. 

The first question I asked Ayana Reed (Carrie) after the show was, "Broadway or Hollywood?" She's extraordinarily talented. She can take her acting career anywhere she wants!

Ayana completely and wholly immersed herself into the character of Carrie. You did not see an actress on stage performing saw Carrie. Ayana's range of emotion, expression and steadfast commitment to her character's persona elevates the theatre-going experience to multitude of feel-it-deep-in-your-heart emotional states.

It turns out that Brittany and Ayana have been best friends since high school, but were surprised when they learned that they would be acting together in this show! It's a small world.  

Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney
Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney

Christian Magby (Willie/Simon) gives a solid, enthusiastic performance! Especially amazing because he was the music composer for Mother of God, one of the three official selections for the 2nd Annual Atlanta Theatre Musical Festival, which was staged during the run of Blackberry Daze. That kind of energy for me seems like a distant memory, but I never had Christian's amazing talent.

Christy Clark (Ginny/Annie May/Hester) also is magnificently brilliant. Her transition from character to character is remarkably seamless, giving each a masterful, unique performance. Her characters are not in-your-face, but would leave a void, would be missed, if not in the story.

Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney
Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney

I had the great pleasure of meeting Ruth P. Watsonthe author of Blackberry Days of Summerthe book on which Blackberry Daze is based. She's also the co-playwright of the stage musical. Perhaps one day she'll be the co-screenwriter for a silver screen version. 

I'm not sure if it was at every performance, but when I went, during intermission, she was autographing copies of her book. Of course I got one and enjoyed a lovely chat with Ruth.

In an interview, Ruth said, "...Most all the characters remind me of somebody I do know from my community in Lynchburg, Virginia. Maybe somebody around the corner I knew. Maybe a lady two streets over, but it remdinds me of somebody that I ran into in my life." 

I can hardly wait to finish the book! AND it's part of a series, so there's more to this story!

Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney
Blackberry Daze | Horizon Theatre | Photo: Greg Mooney

If you've never seen Naomi Lavette (Mae Lou) onstage before, after seeing this show you'll never want to miss another of her shows! 

I'm not a parent, but Mae Lou's love for her daughter comes through loud and clear. The heartbreak her husband brings her (I've had more than a couple of step-fathers, so I got this part) breaks your heart. Mae Lou is a quietly complex woman, wise beyond her years.

So, who shot the that womanizing bastard Herman? I'm not one to spoil the ending, so I'll just invite you to see the show or read the book. I think you'll be grateful and delighted for either...or both!

Blackberry Daze is playing at Horizon Theatre through Sunday, August 27. This show has consistently sold out and is sold out for the remainder of the run, but if you've not seen it, I encourage your to contact the box office to ask about the waiting list. And do check out their upcoming plays!

Allow me, please, to leave you with a video trailer of Blackberry Daze... 

1 comment:

Tamiko Leverette said...

I've seen the show 4 times from preview to last week and it gets better the more comfortable the actors get. The songs should have been available to purchase the soundtrack.