No set, scant props, platforms and projections create an atmosphere showcasing powerful voices, compelling characters and a tantalizing mystery, all making up BEE-LUTHER-HATCHEE playing through February 9 at The Stagecrafters. This production is one step away from a staged reading, and yet so much more. The story revolves around New York City editor Shelita Burns, who creates a book series to honor once silent literary voices. Friends, work, culture, heritage, a memoir she edited, and literary success, make up her world. Meeting the author of this particular memoir is her major life goal. As the action unfolds, everything Shelita’s thinks she knows, understands and stands for begins to unravel.
Tiffany Barrett brings Shelita to life with the right mix of patience and frustration. Barrett creates a character who displays honesty and integrity befitting a 21st century New York City woman of the world, and the vulnerability of a little girl. Shelita is allowed to shine through with her need to have her own and similar voices heard, the stories told of their shared past and heritage.
Vanessa D. Ballard as Libby Price presents a powerhouse of a character, believable and rich with stories to be told. Listening to Ballard talk, connect with the stories, and the character she is watching the crafting of a portrayal of a woman with whom anyone would want to sit and spend the day. Ballard anchors the show, always exiting too soon but leaving behind so much to savor.
Susan Mattson as Anna makes for a best friend anyone would want. Mattson brings pride in her friend, a shoulder to cry on and blunt honesty, with just a touch of jealousy. Patricia Pelletreau calmly and sincerely presents a nun who is there to help and helps to hurt Shelita. Ceclile C. Mihalich as a reporter has quiet assertiveness necessary to make the audience believe she usually hears yes when going after her story. Edward G. Marcinkiewicz uses the gentleness of a southern accent and openness of character to give his role a voice.
Act II belongs to Barrett, who together with Paul McNair as Sean Leonard bring out the story that nobody sees coming. Together they triumphantly tell a tale revealing a mix of mystery, discovery, compassion, rejection, heritage, confusion, and purpose. They are a formidable acting duo. Theirs is a struggle that is old and yet fresh in this telling.
An enjoyable evening of theater bringing a mix of compassion, honor of heritage, mystery, and discovery. What does BEE-LUTHER-HATCHEE mean? Those who listen, carefully consider, and allow a ‘tale well told’ to wash over them will experience the answer and feel it in the belly.
by Thomas Gibbons
Directed by Barbara Mills
January 24 – February 9, 2014
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 2 PM
8130 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118