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June 12, 2012 > Theatre Review: The Member of the Wedding

Theatre Review: The Member of the Wedding

By Jessica Noel Flohr

Love and a sense of belonging are universal human desires. These timeless themes are played out before us in literature and life. In The Member of the Wedding, the 1946 novel by American writer Carson McCullers, fiery tomboy Frankie Addams discovers just how difficult these desperate longings can be.

McCullers adapted her novel for the stage within a few years of publication. Sixty-two years later, the play has become a hidden gem. Some have considered the story to be McCullers' masterpiece. Set in a tiny southern town in 1945, the plot gracefully interweaves the themes of adolescence, sexuality, racism, and belonging to something larger than oneself.

Frankie Addams, the central character, is a twelve-year-old girl in the liminal space that is early adolescence. The transition between childhood and adult life is an especially difficult time. In the opening of the novel, Frankie is described as a "member of nothing in the world." Her mother died when Frankie was born. Her father is a busy shop owner. Frankie spends much of her time with the family cook, Berenice Sadie Brown, and her six-year-old cousin, John Henry. Too old for childhood games and too young for the local girls' club, Frankie struggles to find her place. When her older brother and his new fiancˇe come into town for their wedding, Frankie falls in love with the bridal couple and plots to run away with them.

Katy Hidalgo, a Hayward local making her debut with the Douglas Morrisson Theatre, is exceptional in her role as Frankie Addams. Her energy on stage ignites Frankie's passion for life. Hidalgo's physical expression draws the audience into young Frankie's dramatic frustration with being excluded from becoming a third wheel to the bridal couple. As a foil to Frankie, fifth grade Ruby Buckwalter plays the tenderly mocking cousin, John Henry. She is a very talented young lady.

Parallel to Frankie's exclusion is the separation Berenice is subjected to. This is post-Civil War, pre-civil rights Georgia. Racism permeates the landscape. Though Berenice is the central family figure and substitute mother, she is only viewed as the hired help. She stays in the kitchen during the wedding - a servant and not a guest. Alexandrai Bond brings wonderful warmth to this dark and humorous story. Her honeyed voice captures her listeners' hearts when she sings, "His eye is on the sparrow."

In addition to the top notch performance from the actors, scenic designer Jenn Scheller and Lighting Designer Matthew O'Donnell have created a delight for the eyes! The scenery is deceptively simple: a cutaway of the family home and the backyard tree. A country landscape fills the backdrop and the lighting perfectly follows the timing and mood of the scenes. While sitting in a quiet theater in Hayward, one is magically transported to a peaceful Georgia summer evening in the midst of World War II.

The Douglas Morrisson Theatre (DMT) is truly a treasure. Tucked away in the Hayward hills, one would never suspect such a lovely theater hidden among the twists and turns. Keep an eye on the side street signs, as the turnoff for Ruby is easy to miss. The exterior is unassuming, but the heart of the theater is superb. The DMT is the perfect middle ground between the intimacy of smaller venues and the anonymity of larger scenes. The Member of the Wedding, playing throughout the month of June, is part of this season's theme of "Family Portraits." Shows remaining in the season include Doug Wright's Grey Gardens and Arthur Miller's All My Sons. Take a detour and come by the DMT for a memorable evening!

The Member of the Wedding
June 8 - July 1
Friday and Saturday:8 p.m.
Sunday matinees: 2 p.m.
Thursday, June 28 at 8 p.m.
Special Saturday matinee June 23 at 2 p.m. with discussion to follow
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 N. Third Street, Hayward
(510) 881-6777

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