Haven Theatre. By Catherine Trieschmann. Directed by Marti Lyons. With Ed Dzialo, Rob Fenton, Kay Kron, Julie Schroll, H.B. Ward, Emily Woods. Running time: 2hrs; one intermission.
Theater review by Megan Powell
These days, opinions pile as high as a cat’s back, as they say down South; you can’t turn to a screen of any kind without viewing reportage of everything under the sun, from significant events to what’s happened at the other end of the dinner table, from everyone under the sun. But do we get the actual story from these infinite, separate bits of analysis? Not always. Hot Georgia Sunday, despite being told from six perspectives, tells a story that feels cohesive and, in its best moments, real.
Georgia native Catherine Trieschmann has created a kudzu vine of a play, comprised only of character monologues that build and intertwine and that are shared by the members and associates of a small-town, working-class, down-on-their-luck family. They blunder through love, lust, longing and a lot of Jim Beam in their small north Georgia town, one of those places that straddles rural and sprawl, with farm fields and a McDonalds and a state highway slung between them.
It all starts and ends at church, where teenager Jenny longs for the touch and attention of a boy in her youth group; her sister Flora and friend Tara’s similar desires put them in pursuit of men and situations that become too hot to handle. Flora and Jenny’s father Glenn is a widower, church janitor, and a genial but ineffectual soul who shifts to immersion in the Holy Spirit rather than spirits from a bottle.
Flora’s boyfriend and the church pastor also make their contributions to the play, which covers quite a bit more than simply narrative ground. On a larger level, it explores the untruths we humans tell ourselves and each other to get through life. “We have to find that part of ourselves that isn’t so pretty,” Jenny observes in one of her more pensive moments. Because we in the audience are witness to—in dialogue with, really—the characters as they discover those not-so-pretty things in themselves, they rise above typical caricature of Southern sex and hypocrisy.
There’s no set, just a backdrop of box fans, stacked into a wall—fans that, interestingly, are never turned on. But that’s a detail easily overlooked when watching this production, because the real riches lie elsewhere. Director Marti Lyons and her production team have shrewdly kept things simple: no furniture, no props, minimal sound (effectively created by Christopher Kriz)—all to emphasize the details in those monologues, down to the look of a roadside strip club, the make or model of everyone’s auto, and the slogan t-shirts worn by unseen characters.
The characters’ expressiveness does overreach a bit; Trieschmann sometimes has them sounding rather too literate for who they are. But it takes strong acting to pull off this structure of some dozen or so monologues, and these performers, especially the family trio, manage those moments—and everything else—superbly, mining for both pathos and comedy. Emily Woods’s Jenny captures the thrill and terror of being 15 and not easily introspective, while Julie Schroll’s Flora lets the wounded heart show through her careless strut and fed-up eye rolls. H.B. Ward as their father deftly reveals that Glenn’s simple heart is worn on his sleeve as clearly as it’s on the front of his work shirt. And together, these distinctive voices unify into a fairly compelling whole.