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

Chattanooga’s Live Music Scene – Guitars, Cadillacs, and Chattanooga!

Chattanooga, over the years, has become a city of firsts and bests - the first Coca-Cola bottling plant. The first city to have 1 gig of Internet service. The Moon Pie capital of the universe. The wrecker capital. The hardwood floor machinery capital of the world. More Altoids breath mints are made in Chattanooga than anywhere in the world. Chattanooga is the home of the biggest ... (click for more)

The Shaking Ray Levi Society: 30-Year Retrospective Exhibition

Kicking off a year-long celebration and commemorating the 30-year history of the non-profit arts organization, The Shaking Ray Levi Society will document the diverse work the SRLS has presented within the Chattanooga community and beyond at a multi-media retrospective exhibition from Oct. 15-19 from  5-7 p.m. each day at the Apothecary Gallery ... (click for more)

Man, 25, Shot While Riding In Car In Brainerd On Friday Night

A 25-year-old man was shot while riding in a car in Brainerd on Friday night. Police said Anthony Amey had non-life threatening injuries. At approximately 9:20 p.m., Chattanooga Police were notified of a gunshot wound victim being treated at a local hospital. Of ficers found that the shooting occurred at 500 South Germantown Road. T he victim stated he ... (click for more)

Woman Stabbed To Death On Hooker Road; Man Injured; Suspect Being Interviewed

A young woman was stabbed to death on Hooker Road early Friday morning and a man was injured. At approximately 1:54 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to a stabbing at the 4000 block of Hooker Road. There police located Angel Evans, 33, deceased. She was stabbed multiple times. A second person, Gerald Nelson, 24, was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening ... (click for more)

The Facts About Jail

Since Roy had such a positive reaction to Jeffrey Cross's wonderful (and wonderfully civil--how refreshing) email response to his column on the bike lanes, allow me to speak on the subject of the jail.  First off, Roy's right about some things:  It is overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed.  This is no secret, it's in the Grand Jury report every term.  Here's ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Black Voice In Memphis

Tennessee got quite a peek at its political barometer Thursday night in Memphis when A.C. Wharton, a once-popular black leader who has been Mayor since 2009, was thoroughly trounced by Jim Strickland, currently on the City Council. Strickland, a white Democrat, may be the first step in bringing the now much-maligned West Tennessee city back to hope and reality. What no one can believe ... (click for more)