Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘david milroy’

Windmill Baby
by David Milroy
Directed by Philip Boehm
Upstream Theater
April 25, 2014

Linda Kennedy Photo by Peter Wochniak Upstream Theater

Linda Kennedy
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Upstream Theater

Live theatre is a wonderful thing.  It can take so many different forms, and can educate as well as entertain. In my short tenure as a reviewer, I’ve been impressed with the great variety of live theatre in St. Louis, and I’ve enjoyed discovering all the great local theatre companies.  This production of Windmill Baby is the first production I’ve seen at Upstream Theatre, and it’s an excellent example of a production that is both informative and highly emotionally engaging, anchored by the remarkably versatile performance of its leading (and only) performer.

This play takes us into the world of an Australian cattle station and the Aboriginal workers who spent their lives working there. When the aging Maymay Starr (Linda Kennedy) returns to the station on which she had spent much of her early life, she introduces the audience to a cast of characters out of her own memories. It’s a story that starts out with a collection of random lighthearted memories and then gradually builds to portray both the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of Maymay’s life on the station, and the mistreatment she and her fellow workers faced at the hands of their white boss, as well as their struggle in the midst of the general expectations of white Australian society.  She fondly remembers long-gone friends and family members, and shares some amusing stories of goings-on at the station, as ever so surely the tone shifts to one of tragedy and regret, centering around a the story of the “windmill baby” of the title and her friend’s doomed–and socially unacceptable–love affair.

The story and the action are all related with vivid energy by Kennedy, who portrays Maymay as well as the entire cast of friends, family members, allies and antagonists who populate the stories she tells.  It’s a wonderful performance, as Kennedy fully inhabits each and every character, from the vivacious but regretful Maymay, to her gruff and loving stockman husband Malvern, to the cruel Boss and his weary wife, called the Missus, to the determined and romantic disabled gardner Wunman, who is in many ways the heart of Maymay’s story and the chief subject of her recollections.  All of these characters are completely and engagingly realized by Kennedy, and the transformations between characters are clearly apparent. Kennedy displays impressive skill at changing both her voice and physical mannerisms as she portrays the different people and even, humorously, a dog.  It’s a captivating performance from start to finish, as Kennedy brings the audience into Maymay’s story and not only tells but shows the memorable incidents and people in her eventful life.  There’s even one great moment in which Kennedy drafts a volunteer from the audience and sits her down in front of everyone to relate the engaging parable of a pumpkin and a potato.

In addition to Kennedy’s wonderful performance, the technical aspects of this show are also extremely strong. The set by Patrick Huber is detailed and evocative, with the base of a windmill tower as its centerpiece. The lighting (designed by Tony Anselmo) is also impressive, especially in the effect of projecting the silhouette of the rotating windmill blade against a wall.  The sights, sounds and atmosphere of an old abandoned cattle station are proficiently recreated here, along with some stunning atmospheric music played on various instruments by Farshid Soltanshahi, with whom Maymay interacts memorably at occasional moments in the play.

This is a rich, detailed world with which I would imagine few in the audience would be familiar, but the storytelling and in particular Kennedy’s winning performance help us to see both the joys and immense difficulties of Maymay’s life, as well humanity’s capacity for beauty on the one hand and great cruelty on the other.  It’s quite an intense play, especially toward the powerfully emotional conclusion. This is a testimony to one woman’s remarkable perseverance and a thoroughly realized evocation of time, place and atmosphere, as well as a prime example of the kind of excellence that St. Louis theatre has to offer.

Linda Kennedy Photo by Peter Wochniak Upstream Theater

Linda Kennedy
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Upstream Theater

Read Full Post »