Between scenes, characters drift offstage in dappled light (designed by Michael Wellborn), accompanied by a slow, tinkling ragtime tune. Then they drift back on, assembling themselves on chairs, pillows and chaises as though posing for a painting.Pilloud's ensemble members work well together, though some individual moments fall flat. As Calamity, Tewes is required to act drunk in almost every scene --- a monumental challenge that she is often, but not always, up to. Shekiri's composer seems oddly benign on first entrance, unmarked by either hard times or his raging case of syphilis. But his authority grows as the evening progresses.At one point, Joplin speaks to the others about the wonder of "art that endures." This play might not be exactly that --- it won't have the staying power of "Maple Leaf Rag" --- but it certainly is an original melody, well sung.

Between scenes, characters drift offstage in dappled light (designed by Michael Wellborn), accompanied by a slow, tinkling ragtime tune. Then they drift back on, assembling themselves on chairs, pillows and chaises as though posing for a painting.Pilloud’s ensemble members work well together, though some individual moments fall flat. As Calamity, Tewes is required to act drunk in almost every scene — a monumental challenge that she is often, but not always, up to. Shekiri’s composer seems oddly benign on first entrance, unmarked by either hard times or his raging case of syphilis. But his authority grows as the evening progresses.At one point, Joplin speaks to the others about the wonder of “art that endures.” This play might not be exactly that — it won’t have the staying power of “Maple Leaf Rag” — but it certainly is an original melody, well sung.

Morning Glories

Production

SEATTLE An Empty Space Theater presentation of a play in one act by Michael Garneau, translated by Linda Gaboriau. Directed by Rod Pilloud.

Crew

Sets, Charlene Hall; costumes, Kira Knight; lighting, Michael Wellborn. Opened, reviewed Jan. 7 , 1998, at the Empty Space Theater; 151 seats; $ 24 top. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

With

Cast: Lauren Tewes (Martha Jane), Valcruz Shekiri (The Composer), Christina Shinkle (Janey O), Charlee Williams (Leola), Jennifer Ferguson (Cleopha), Mali Martino (Eugenia), Julie Gustafson (Blossom).Geographically, Montreal is only a stone's throw from the U.S., but linguistically, it lies across a great divide. Audiences south of the St. Lawrence River rarely get to see the works of French Canada's great theater artists, so the U.S. premiere at Seattle's Empty Space Theater of Michael Garneau's 1994 "Morning Glories" is especially welcome. As translated by Linda Gaboriau, the play is a lyrical musing on power, race, morality and identity.Premise is an imaginary meeting between an aging Calamity Jane (Lauren Tewes) and an ailing Scott Joplin (Valcruz Shekiri). The scene is a turn-of-the-century brothel, or rather "a nursery in disguise," presided over by Madame Calamity and populated by four prostitutes (played by Charlee Williams, Jennifer Ferguson, Mali Martino and Julie Gustafson), their four babies and a mute but musically gifted orphan named Janey (Christina Shinkle). Joplin wanders into the brothel one afternoon, lured by Janey's rendition of one of his compositions, and slowly finds common ground among the outcasts.Director Rod Pilloud's staging echoes Garneau's dreamlike style.
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