Passion at core of 'Orange Earth'

November 08, 1990|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

On a stark, barren stage with only large wooden blocks to form a set, the 7 Stages Performing Arts Center of Atlanta is presenting Adam Small's "The Orange Earth," a riveting drama that exposes the injustice of apartheid in South Africa.

The professional company is staging this protest against racial separation at the Theatre Project through Sunday.

Based on the South African scholar, teacher and poet's own grim experiences, the play takes its title from the color of the "good soil of childhood" where Small grew up in poverty outside of Cape Town.

The script is sometimes tedious, repetitiously pounding its message home. But the play is also lyrical in its surrealistic realism.

A violent bombing opens the play. A white child is killed. Accused is Johnny Adams a known political rebel who must stand trial for his "crime." The case against him is thin (we never know whether he is guilty or not). In essence, he is being tried because of the color of his skin.

Through a series of eight illuminating scenes the play flashes back to explore the consequences of the white-dominated system that twists the truth to portray this well-educated, intellectual philosopher as a violent enemy of the people.

Johnny speaks eloquently against his accusers in court but is still condemned to death. While waiting out the "killing silences" on death row, he strikes up a friendship with his thick-headed, apartheid-indoctrinated jailer.

This unusual friendship is the strength of the play as it becomes a metaphor for the differences in the treatment of the two races which, Johnny points out, are the same under God.

The play has been directed with impressive passion by Del Hamilton and Small but the blocking and timing could be more dramatically effective.

Steven Coulter as Johnny turns in a moving, virtuoso performance. Rick Rogers is excellent as the jailer and the off-stage iniquitous, unctuous voice of the court prosecutor.

Kuumba Alisa Foster as Johnny's supportive wife is believable but she lacks the spirited core of the character.

Bilal Farid gives a quietly sweet performance as Johnny's father.


The Spotlighters are staging an exceptional version of playwright William Inge's 1962 raw yet gripping slice of life, "Natural Affection," through Nov. 25.

In this engrossing piece, beautifully directed with sensitivity and fine insight by Richard Jackson, teen-age Donnie returns home from a prison farm to the mother who has rejected since his infancy.

The homecoming disrupts the placid, shallow lives of the mother, Sue, a successful buyer, and, Bernie, her narcissistic gigolo boyfriend.

Donnie's obsessive devotion to his mother soon aggravates Bernie and a jealous antipathy springs up between the two males.

On Christmas Eve, everything comes to an explosive end. Terrible things are said, and Bernie storms out. Broken-hearted, this childishly selfish woman woman makes a disastrous choice and therein lies the tragedy and weakness of the play.

The acting here is outstanding. The pace is tight and there is intense, gripping interaction between the actors.

Laura McFarland is excellent as the foolish mother but the actress stays too much on one level without subtly shaded variation.

William Runnebaum (a fine new face) is perfect as the abrasive, shallow Bernie. Robert Bayer as Vince, turns in an uncannily real performance as a pathetic, neurotic neighbor.

Darlene Deardorff delights as Vince's oversexed and neglected wife. Although he performs his final scene with heart-tugging grief, Dan Carroll is a too-wooden Donnie.

The audience must sense his terrible pain from the very beginning in his voice, gestures, and facial expressions.

In smaller roles, Jeremy T. Morrison, Penny Nichols, Christine Micklos and Kevin Brian do very well.

Loyola College

An unusual production of Peter Shaffer's "Equus" is being staged by students of Loyola College under the direction of J.E. Dockery through Sunday.

The play features a very believable performance by Brian Ruff as the disturbed boy who has blinded six horses. Nice performances by Christina Parr and Paul Chiocco.

An imposing set has been created by Christian Garretson.

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