No Wire Hangers!

Monday, August 18, 2014 - by Hunter Rodgers
While watching the Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga’s production of Keely and Du, I was relieved to be writing the review and not working on the marketing campaign. It’s a hard sell, to say the least. The play takes the hot-button issue of abortion and hurls it into the audience like a hand grenade. It’s hard to call Keely and Du enjoyable, but it’s certainly exciting. 

The action opens on a young, unconscious woman being locked in a basement with an older southern woman.
Upon waking, Keely, discovers she has been kidnapped by an extremist Christian sect to prevent her from having an abortion. And the woman she shares her prison with is Du, her nurse and only companion for the duration of her pregnancy. For the next hour and a half, this basement is a prison for the audience as well. 

Christy Gallo inhabits the role of Keely and makes her rage like a caged animal. It’s an exhausting performance, full of anger, bitterness, panic, and finally, compassion. The role of Keely requires a top tier actress and it gets one in Gallo. She takes a journey into hell and makes us question our belief in absolution. 

In a diametrically opposing role, Kitty Reel plays Du, the kindly, naive Christian soldier. And it’s to Ms. Reel’s credit that she doesn’t seem to be performing at all. It’s as if this woman walked into the theatre from the Steel Magnolia’s beauty shop. Anyone from the south will recognize her kind. She speaks in idioms, counts her blessings, and loves to talk. And her only gossip partner just happens to hate the sight of her. And so is formed our odd couple. 

This play, by Jane Martin (a pen name for an unknown playwright) is a vehicle for two actresses. The rest of the male cast is largely siphons for talking points. They are designed to be two-dimensional and representational. The leader of the fundamentalist kidnappers, played by Chris Cooper, is a pathetic sort of man, because he so wants to be a fisher of men, but is ultimately uninspiring and cowardly. Cooper gives a sedated performance, which works to express the leader’s ineffectualness.

Lastly, our ensemble is rounded out by Jordan Williams as the man whose baby Keely was trying to abort. Another pathetic creature, who can only stand tall, when standing on the backs of others. Williams is natural and effective, in a small but crucial role.

The production, directed by Casey Keelen, takes advantage of its ingredients. The intensity of Christy Gallo, the homespun charm of Kitty Reel, the squeak of the dungeon door, the whirring of the lights, all add color to the bleak premise. And the actors and script find humor in the darkest of places. Barefoot in the Park, this is not. But, if you possess an open-mind and a strong stomach, then Keely and Du is a play to see. And discuss. More information can be found at ensembletheatreofchattanooga.com

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Receives Best Picture Oscar Nomination

“Hacksaw Ridge’ — the movie about the late area Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss — has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was one of nine pictures nominated for Hollywood’s biggest and most prestigious award during a special announcement at the  oscars.com  website  Tuesday  morning. Also nominated was early Best Picture ... (click for more)

VIDEO: Memories Of Chattanooga Radio Legend Tommy Jett

Chattanooga Police To Add 14 Officers After Violent Weekend; New System To Allow Local Testing Of Shell Casings

In the wake of a weekend in which five people were shot with two dying, the Chattanooga Police Department is adding 14 more officers, Mayor Andy Berke and Chief Fred Fletcher said Monday. The department is also utilizing a new system that will allow local testing of shell casings and avoid a long wait time after sending them off to Nashville. Chief Fletcher also said there ... (click for more)

McReynolds, Brooks Arrested After Police Chase Ends In Crash On Monroe Street; Accord Had Been Stolen From Dealership

Marquis McReynolds, 25, and Jermichael Brooks, 23, were arrested after a police chase on Monday.   A task force including the ATF, FBI, and Chattanooga Police Department officers pursued a stolen vehicle. That pursuit resulted in a traffic crash and the arrest of two convicted felons.   The pursuit began at 5200 Highway 58 just after 7 p.m. after police ... (click for more)

Proud Of Chattanooga And The Women's March - And Response (2)

I was very happy to participate in the Women’s March on Chattanooga yesterday afternoon. The diversity and the sheer numbers of women, men and children were incredible. One estimate was at least 3,000. Standing together with all of these like-minded souls was overwhelming and humbling.  I have rarely been so happy and so proud of my town.  One question is, why is ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Puzzling Women

After Rhonda Thurman left the “Enlightment” meeting of the Hamilton Country School Board Saturday afternoon, she must have been catching up on the news when she posted this message on her Facebook page: “I am really trying to understand. I am a woman and I cannot think of one "RIGHT" I do not have. Can someone enlighten me?” Not one person enlightened Rhonda because nobody could ... (click for more)