Up the Mountain

Up the Mountain (Theatre Geo; 93 seats; $ 15 top) Ivory Coast Prods. presents a play in two acts by Kevin Arkadie. Directed by Michael Haney. Set, Everett Chase (based on design concept of Thomas A. Brown); lighting, Doc Ballard; costumes, Arline Burks Grant; original music, Stephen James Taylor; sound, Kevin Goold. Opened May 10; reviewed June 14; runs until June 22 (reopens July 10 at the Stella Adler Theatre, runs through Aug. 3). Running time: 2 hours, 30 min. Cast: Willie C. Carpenter (John), Iona Morris (Jolene), Hattie Winston (Margaret), Joan Pringle (Polly), Veronica Reddforrest (Lucinda). Writer Kevin Arkadie has established solid TV credentials ("The John Vernon Story," "New York Undercover," "Chicago Hope," "High Incident" and more). "Up The Mountain" proves he is also a master craftsman for live theater. Staged with impeccable insight and attention to detail by Michael Haney, Arkadie's tale focuses on the cathartic reunion of three middle-aged African-American sisters at their childhood home in the coal-mining community of Mt. Hope in West Virginia. Haney guides an outstanding five-member ensemble who bring to life the full potential of the playwright's work. Having not seen each other for 15 years, success-driven workaholic Margaret (Hattie Winston), emotionally insecure school teacher Polly (Joan Pringle) and their free-spirited older sister, Lucinda (Veronica Reddforrest), have returned to the vacant home of their deceased parents, each with an agenda to impose on the other two. But the dilapidated home of their youth has its own plans, forcing the sisters to exorcise the years of unresolved conflicts among them, as well as the resentful memories of their poverty-stricken childhood with their parents, the heroically nurturing Jolene (Iona Morris) and the staunchly proud but often abusive John (Willie C. Carpenter). The interplay of Winston, Pringle and Reddforrest is as captivating as it is often heartbreaking. During the course of a three-day weekend, Winston's Margaret and Pringle's Polly confront each other with a lifetime of sibling angst, often circling around their mother's prized dining room table. Polly wants to sell their parents' house for a quick profit, while Margaret wants to give it to her rebellious 21-year-old-son in a last-ditch effort to keep him from leaving her completely. Serving as mediator, as she has done all their lives, is Reddforrest's Lucinda, whose intelligent, life-loving soul is beginning to be crippled by the early stages of Alzheimer's. Winston personifies Margaret's hard-edged, eternal rage at what she considers to have been the cruelty of her coal-miner father and the weakness of her mother. In flashbacks to her childhood, she quite believably transforms herself into the sickly child, who was the only sister to stand up to the often overpowering fury of John. Since her own anger is also the source of her material success and her identity, she has found it convenient to transfer that ire onto Margaret. For her part, Pringle's Polly is an open wound of need who desperately will use any means to hold on to some sense of a family's love. In her scenes with the parents, Pringle exudes a tangibly pathetic urgency to please and to be emotionally rewarded. And what a wonder is Reddforrest, whose magnificently expressive face and body constantly segue between the essence of a gloriously exuberant self-made woman and the tragic self-defensiveness of a mind that no longer has control of itself. In the scenes from the sisters' youth during the '30s and '40 s, Morris' Jolene and Carpenter's John immediately evoke the harsh realities of another age. Morris embodies the resignation of a poor, black woman of that time along with an indomitable spirit and earthy sensuality that transcends her lot in life. As the downtrodden breadwinner, Carpenter is a harsh-talking, sinewy giant of a man who only knows how to work himself to death and to demand absolute obedience from his family. And if his words and his beatings don't do the job, he is quite willing bring out his pistol to demonstrate that, in his family, "he is the man" who has life-and-death control over everyone's destiny. The designs of Everett Chase (set), Doc Ballard (lighting) and Arline Burks Grant (costumes) are great assets to the success of the production. Also creating an evocative, mood-filled environment is the original entr'acte music of Stephen James Taylor, assisted by the sound design of Kevin Goold. AU: Julio Martinez

With:
Willie C. Carpenter (John), Iona Morris (Jolene), Hattie Winston (Margaret), Joan Pringle (Polly), Veronica Reddforrest (Lucinda).

Up the Mountain (Theatre Geo; 93 seats; $ 15 top) Ivory Coast Prods. presents a play in two acts by Kevin Arkadie. Directed by Michael Haney. Set, Everett Chase (based on design concept of Thomas A. Brown); lighting, Doc Ballard; costumes, Arline Burks Grant; original music, Stephen James Taylor; sound, Kevin Goold. Opened May 10; reviewed June 14; runs until June 22 (reopens July 10 at the Stella Adler Theatre, runs through Aug. 3). Running time: 2 hours, 30 min. Cast: Willie C. Carpenter (John), Iona Morris (Jolene), Hattie Winston (Margaret), Joan Pringle (Polly), Veronica Reddforrest (Lucinda). Writer Kevin Arkadie has established solid TV credentials (“The John Vernon Story,” “New York Undercover,” “Chicago Hope,” “High Incident” and more). “Up The Mountain” proves he is also a master craftsman for live theater. Staged with impeccable insight and attention to detail by Michael Haney, Arkadie’s tale focuses on the cathartic reunion of three middle-aged African-American sisters at their childhood home in the coal-mining community of Mt. Hope in West Virginia. Haney guides an outstanding five-member ensemble who bring to life the full potential of the playwright’s work. Having not seen each other for 15 years, success-driven workaholic Margaret (Hattie Winston), emotionally insecure school teacher Polly (Joan Pringle) and their free-spirited older sister, Lucinda (Veronica Reddforrest), have returned to the vacant home of their deceased parents, each with an agenda to impose on the other two. But the dilapidated home of their youth has its own plans, forcing the sisters to exorcise the years of unresolved conflicts among them, as well as the resentful memories of their poverty-stricken childhood with their parents, the heroically nurturing Jolene (Iona Morris) and the staunchly proud but often abusive John (Willie C. Carpenter). The interplay of Winston, Pringle and Reddforrest is as captivating as it is often heartbreaking. During the course of a three-day weekend, Winston’s Margaret and Pringle’s Polly confront each other with a lifetime of sibling angst, often circling around their mother’s prized dining room table. Polly wants to sell their parents’ house for a quick profit, while Margaret wants to give it to her rebellious 21-year-old-son in a last-ditch effort to keep him from leaving her completely. Serving as mediator, as she has done all their lives, is Reddforrest’s Lucinda, whose intelligent, life-loving soul is beginning to be crippled by the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Winston personifies Margaret’s hard-edged, eternal rage at what she considers to have been the cruelty of her coal-miner father and the weakness of her mother. In flashbacks to her childhood, she quite believably transforms herself into the sickly child, who was the only sister to stand up to the often overpowering fury of John. Since her own anger is also the source of her material success and her identity, she has found it convenient to transfer that ire onto Margaret. For her part, Pringle’s Polly is an open wound of need who desperately will use any means to hold on to some sense of a family’s love. In her scenes with the parents, Pringle exudes a tangibly pathetic urgency to please and to be emotionally rewarded. And what a wonder is Reddforrest, whose magnificently expressive face and body constantly segue between the essence of a gloriously exuberant self-made woman and the tragic self-defensiveness of a mind that no longer has control of itself. In the scenes from the sisters’ youth during the ’30s and ’40 s, Morris’ Jolene and Carpenter’s John immediately evoke the harsh realities of another age. Morris embodies the resignation of a poor, black woman of that time along with an indomitable spirit and earthy sensuality that transcends her lot in life. As the downtrodden breadwinner, Carpenter is a harsh-talking, sinewy giant of a man who only knows how to work himself to death and to demand absolute obedience from his family. And if his words and his beatings don’t do the job, he is quite willing bring out his pistol to demonstrate that, in his family, “he is the man” who has life-and-death control over everyone’s destiny. The designs of Everett Chase (set), Doc Ballard (lighting) and Arline Burks Grant (costumes) are great assets to the success of the production. Also creating an evocative, mood-filled environment is the original entr’acte music of Stephen James Taylor, assisted by the sound design of Kevin Goold. AU: Julio Martinez

Up the Mountain

Theatre Geo; 93 seats; $15 top; Opened May 10

Production: Ivory Coast Prods. presents a play in two acts by Kevin Arkadie. Directed by Michael Haney

Creative: Set, Everett Chase (based on design concept of Thomas A. Brown); lighting, Doc Ballard; costumes, Arline Burks Grant; original music, Stephen James Taylor; sound, Kevin Goold. Opened May 10; reviewed June 14; runs until June 22 (reopens July 10 at the Stella Adler Theatre, runs through Aug. 3). Running time: 2 hours, 30 min.

Cast: Willie C. Carpenter (John), Iona Morris (Jolene), Hattie Winston (Margaret), Joan Pringle (Polly), Veronica Reddforrest (Lucinda).

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