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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Homespun play holds Weathervane stage

2/10/2011 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

From left, Erin Diroll, Kaitlyn Warren, Kristy Tucci, Lenne Snively, Tricia Bestic and Caitlin Rose share a scene in Weathervane Playhouse’s production of “Quilters.”
Photo courtesy of Weathervane Playhouse
MERRIMAN VALLEY — “Quilters,” on stage at Weathervane Playhouse through Feb. 20, isn’t a gentle, sweet musical.

Tough, raw women, who survive and help their families survive, are the substance of this story. Set in the late 1800s, the play tells the story of women who moved westward with their husbands to settle new land. Along the way, they gave birth in the back of a wagon, prepared meals, buried the dead and made quilts.

The quilts became an artistic representation of their lives. In one area of the country, water was brought to the surface of the land by windmills. So, a woman designed a quilt pattern that was called “Windmill.” 

When one family reached its destination, they lived in a hole in the ground, a dugout. A woman in that family created a quilt pattern named “Dugout.” Other patterns shown on the stage included “Rocky Road,” “Babies’ Blocks,” “Rebel Patch,” “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul,” “Baptism,” “Butterfly,” “Lone Star,” “Double Wedding Rings,” “Log Cabin” and “Secret Drawer.”

Audiences will be in for a treat with this production.

“Quilters” (book by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek, and music and lyrics by Barbara Damashek) was nominated for several Tony Awards in 1985.

Throughout the score, Damashek quilted hymn tunes and traditional folk songs into the music.

Director Terri Kent once again proved she is one of the best directors in our area. The episodic script presents some problems to the director and cast, yet Kent helped each story to fold seamlessly into the next story. Yes, some stories ended and a new story started in a different mood, but Kent guided her cast as it took the audience from story to story effortlessly. Those in the audience who have seen Kent’s direction at Porthouse Theatre at Blossom Music Center in the summer know what a talented director she is, and she brought this talent to “Quilters.”

The story involves Sarah (Lenne Snively) and her daughters (Tricia Bestic, Danielle Dorfman, Kristy Tucci, Kaitlyn Warren, Erin Diroll and Caitlin Rose). Rachel Ann Meyer is the swing cast member.

Jonathan Swoboda and Jennifer Korecki worked as musical directors.

During the performance, the musicians included Jennifer Korecki (piano/conductor), Eva Mondragon (violin), Joe Rogucki (guitar/banjo) and Francis McGill (bass).

This ensemble cast works as a well-oiled machine. The talented team of performers brings the audience stories, songs and dances with ease and without tension. They told a story of a fire on the plains that destroyed their homes, killed friends and burned their crops. Yet, they continued to care for their husbands, children, animals, gardens, crops and their quilts.

One of the most poignant sections deals with abortions. While one character asks her doctor for information about an abortion, the other women slowly chant a formula that women of that time passed around — a formula that would cause women to miscarry in a few hours.

One character who could not have children became the teacher. She met a medical doctor and wanted to marry him. He ended the relationship after she told him she couldn’t have children. He married someone else. The teacher taught both of his children.

“Quilters” deals with the intimate stories of the lives of several women. Slowly the women create quilts to tell their own stories — almost an autobiography.

This production should be shared by mothers, daughters and grandmothers. Don’t leave the men at home; they’ll enjoy “Quilters” too.

For ticket information, call 330-836-2626.

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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