That Other Woman's Child
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
September 30, 2008
Drama needs sharp dialogue, believable characters, and a plot that's more than transparent if it is to succeed. These elements are not wasted on a musical either, but in the latter there is still the music, choreography, and the exuberance that the cast puts into each number that can carry the day. Such is the salvation of That Other Woman's Child, a bluegrass musical by Sherry Landrum and George S. Clinton, which delivers many entertaining moments.
The title tells the story. The child, Dawn—fully grown and running her own business in California—comes to a Kentucky farm, half of which she has inherited from her father, who just died. The farm is about to be auctioned off for back taxes. The three generations currently living on the farm resent her even though they have never met her. It was her father who ran off with another woman, leaving the matriarch of the farm, Granny Loomis, heartbroken and bitter, and Granny Loomis works at making sure everyone else under her roof suffers equally. There are many under her roof and nearly all dream of leaving. They include her daughter and bible-thumping son-in-law, Aurora and Matthew Mark; their talented, guitar-playing son and ambitious daughter, Jimmy John and Corinthianne; Luke John, an attractive widower, who works the farm; and Double Bob, a relative of Matthew Mark, who keeps house. Others are ever-present: Song of Solomon, a young woman, helps with housework and can't say "no"; Leviticus Numbers, a dimwit and loose cannon who Granny Loomis betrothed to Corinthianne; Deuteronomy, Leviticus's sidekick; and Peter Hale, Corinthianne's love interest, who is bent on helping the local farmers once he is elected to state office.
The cast totals 23 and this is half the fun, because the cast comes to life with thunderous tapping and high spirits during their ensemble numbers, such as "She's Comin'." The energy feels raucous and contagious. At times members of the six-piece band mingle comfortably with cast members playing the banjo, fiddle, spoons, guitar, and washboard. Director Landrum and choreographer Mark Knowles can share the credit for this. They can also share the responsibility for some very slow parts where, miraculously, the large stage feels nearly empty, there's little movement, and there's no dialogue to speak of. This gives the audience plenty of time to gallop ahead of the pencil-thin plot and arrive at the end wondering how long it will take for the cast to catch up.
The beaten-down Aurora, played by Tina Marie Casamento, brings a lovely, plaintive quality to "Family Guilt and Southern Shame." Dave Schoonover throws himself into the role of Leviticus Numbers and seems to be having some fun with it. He sings "She's Mine" with scary conviction. Maria Sager stepped into the role of Song of Solomon during this performance and sang a fine rendition of "Honeysuckle."
Granny Loomis hovers powerfully over Act I even though she never appears on stage. That she is portrayed as a caricature when she finally enters in Act II deflates the good preparation. Andrea A. McCullough does her part and the joke gets a laugh, but it is gratuitous humor and it diminishes the plot. The silly names, while pretty funny, fail for the same reason—they're more diversionary than relevant. The two and a half hours could easily become a solid two-hour production by eliminating clichés, such as "I think you just saved my life."
Still, That Other Woman's Child proves enjoyable. Lino Toyos has created a fine farmhouse and its exterior; Brenda Schwab designed colorful costumes; Annmarie Duggan's lighting shows bold silhouettes in one scene and, overall, gives the feeling of expanse. Tom Goddard designed sound; and David Libby directs The Great Kentucky Knob Band.