12 MONTROSE VOICE/JANUARY 16, 1987
Ensemble Dramatizes Social
Themes in 'Ameri/Cain Gothic'
Review by Bill O'Rourke
When I went to see The Ensemble's
Ameri/ Cain Gothic. I came expecting a
gripping drama about Rev. Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr.'s assassination. In
truth, this play has next to nothing to do
with that. It only uses it to establish
ironic context, helping to build sus
I also expected the play to talk about
the double standard affecting blacks. I
compare favorably with many of Tennessee William's women. Director Sterling Vappie has wisely helped to
develop every nuance of this well-
The Ensemble is a wonderful theater.
People of true talent in every phase of
the theater are in the habit of working
there. In recent play selections a courageous priority has been given to social
relevancy over such other concerns as
Sharon Beck and Michael Washington in The Ensemble's "Ameri/ Cain
thought it would show the oppression
that courageous dreamer helped to lead
us from. There were soupcons of that
stirred into the ragout.
One of the major characters in the
play is a detective. He had a lot of trouble getting that job. Was it because he
was black? He allows a reclusive
woman to lock him in her hotel room
and keep him prisoner for a full day
while he's on a major case.
A major plot turning happens when
the woman misses an important train
connection when the porter can't lift her
trunk. She sees him as a devil. Is it
because he's black? Later on she marries Christ due partly to the stirring sermon given by a black tent crusader.
Clearly, these two men—the detective
and the porter—were not oppressed
because they were black, but because
they were incompetent.
This play's-true thematic priority lies
in the double standard affecting
women. The woman's blind faith in a
male God and her innate sense of fair
play (not justice) make her try to play
her life by the men's rules. What is for a
man an "accident" quickly forgotten,
warps her whole life. This is a meaty
question, well tackled.
Because the man points out early on
that he could break that old door off its
hinges, his day-long imprisonment is
unbelievable. So the priority is clearly
not given to the plot. The play would
seem to want to be an allegory, but the
points it tries to make are continuously
muddied by details of character development. So the playwright's goal must
have been the characters, right? But the
detective is unbelievable for the same
reason the plot is, regardless of how well
Michael Washington acts the role.
Never fear. Playwright Paul Carter
Harrison has written a richly detailed,
inspired crazy lady. This character,
especially as acted by Sharon Beck, can
Paul Mathews and Paul Hager in Theatre Suburbia 8 production of "The
Button" by Ben Star, playing through Feb. 7
improv troupe: Jan. 17 and 19; Encore
Contest: Filmmakers, six categories,
deadline March 1. Houston International Film Festival, 965-9955.
Jan. 16, 1796: Sydney: A play by an
Irish pickpocket with tickets paid for
with meat or rum opens the first European theater ever in Australia.
B'days: 16—Debbie Allen, Ethel Merman, Ronnie Milsap. 17—Anton Chekhov, James Earl -Jones, Betty White.
18—Cary Grant, Oliver Hardy, Danny
Gailee Walker and Kevin Evans in
•'The Dutchman" at Kuumba House
17)—Sam Shepard's characters aren't
hungry for food!
Delia Stewart Dance Company (Jewish Community Center, 17)
It's a Small World (J.C.C., 18, 2:00
p.m.)—international folk dances by
children for children, ONO
Call 529-8490 and
Fou will be in Next
Week's Newspaper of
Cynthia Ferrer (Kathy Selden, center) surprises everyone, including (left to
right) Elek Hartman (RF. Simpson), Jennifer Smith (Lina Lamont). Donn
Simione (Don Lockwood), Alan Sues (Roscoe Dexter) and Brad Moranz
(Cosmo Brown) in "Singin' in the Rain " now at the Music Hall
Next season, the likes of Placido
Domingo, Mirella Freni, Nicolai Ghia-
rov and Julius Rudel will be performing
the likes of Aida, Cosi Fan Tute and
Tannhauser in the new Wortham
Theater for the Houston Grand Opera.
Right now you can catch their "Porgy
and Bess" at Jones!
All remaining tickets to Houston
Symphony Orchestra performances are
being sold at half-price.
Stella Naranjo's Indian Art of the
Americas shop shows and sells
Kachina. cornhusk and spirit dolls by
award-winning artists. It's in the River
Oaks Shopping Center.
Auds: Fuschia Fandango, Ink.:
Kay, A.A. Milne. 19—Robert E. Lee,
Dolly Parton, Jean Stapleton.
"So what signifies wishing and hoping for better times? We may make these
times better if we better ourselves." —
Benjamin Franklin (born Jan. 17)
Bordeaux Festival (Inter-Continental
Hotel, 16)—tastings and gourmet meals
Doll House Miniatures (Museum of
Natural Science, 16)—80 re-creations
where one inch equals one foot
Dutchman and The Jewels of the
Shrine (Kuumba House, 16t—two one-
Storyteller (Black Labrador Pub, 17.
Cane of the Starving Class (Stages.
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