by Michele Markarian
“Alligator Road” – Written by Camille Kimball. Directed by Weylin Symes. Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, through October 29.
Recently widowed Kathy (Brianne Beatrice) is stuck with a hardware store she doesn’t want to run. Her feminist daughter, the angry Candace (Sarah Bendell) has just learned that her mother is literally giving away the store to Lavinia (Victoria George), a black woman Kathy perceives to be homeless. This is in order to make what she feels are “reparations”, despite never having slave owners in her family tree. Candace wants the store, Lavinia and her husband Scott (Avery Bargar) want the store, and Kathy just wants to be free from a life and a marriage she was long bored with. The stakes are high all around, which makes for interesting drama.
Weylin Symes has assembled an excellent cast. Beatrice’s Kathy is both canny and dumb; she will remind you of someone in your life you either love or hate. Bendell plays Candace with an edge and hostility, but given the fact that Kathy reveals she wasn’t a wanted baby, it’s no wonder. George’s Lavinia is grounded and intelligent, to the point where you wonder why she and her husband, the affable Bargar, don’t walk – make that run – away from the proposed barter, which sounds like a losing proposition. Has anyone even seen the financials for this bargain?
I’m not sure as an audience member where my sympathies were supposed to lie, but as a mother, my sympathies were with the peckish Candace, who loved her father and had an historical reverence for the store, which was passed down through her grandfather. She bears a new tattoo, a quote from Djuna Barnes’s “Nightwood”: “I have been loved by something strange, and it has forgotten me.” This quote becomes all the more relevant as the play progresses. “I love you, sweetie, but you’re like a booger I can’t flick off right now”, Kathy tells her daughter. Candace, as we understand it, has put herself through college with no help from her parents. If anyone deserves reparation, shouldn’t it be the kid?
Lavinia comes off as the smartest person in the piece, who knows how to manipulate Kathy into giving her what she’d promised at the shelter – a free hardware store. The store is for Scott, who has taken a severance package based on the promise of the new venture. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that Scott should have no problem finding himself another job. And while the playwright makes some excellent points about race, in the end, race should have little to do with the fact that Kathy is denying her daughter, after giving her so very little in the first place, her right to take on the family business. It seems mean and selfish. Never mind the fact that Lavinia and Scott are dangerous – Scott threatens to have his brother, an attorney, get involved if the deal doesn’t go through. As the store doesn’t exactly scream success, wouldn’t it be better to keep it in the family?
Katheryn Monthei’s set is a masterpiece, depicting a colorful, overcrowded hardware store covered – and I mean covered – with Kathy’s crocheted creations. The play has some very funny lines, such as Kathy’s “I’ve always hated Florida. It’s like the penis of North America”. But I’m not sure what’s the point of the piece, other than sometimes parents are just plain toxic. See for yourself and let me know! For more info, go to: http://www.greaterbostonstage.org/