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

All American Summer: Birds With Fleas Thursday At The Hunter

All American Summer at the Hunter Museum will feature Birds with Fleas on Thursday, from 6-7:30 p.m. Ukulele and banjo blend with the vocal harmonies of local artists Birds with Fleas.   Admission is free for members, $15 for adults and $7.50 for kids.  (click for more)

Artisti Affamati Presents Family Friendly Opera July 16 And 18

Artisti Affamati of Chattanooga will host their first family opera night on Thursday, July 16, and Saturday, July 18, at 7 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Northside Presbyterian Church (923 Mississippi Ave.).  The comic one-act opera "Doctor Miracle" will be presented in English and will feature a catered dinner by Jason Smith.  The opera takes place in a family home ... (click for more)

Corker Urges Administration To Take Time, Not Rush Into Bad Deal With Iran

As the P5+1 nations and Iran attempt to meet a new Tuesday deadline for a nuclear agreement, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, appeared on CBS News’ Face the Nation today and urged the Obama administration to take the time needed and to not rush into a bad deal with Iran. Senator Corker said, “Obviously, [the administration is] very anxious. I think they look at this as a legacy ... (click for more)

Muslim Advocacy Group Questions House Arrest For Signal Mountain Man Charged In Threats Against Muslim Village In New York

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, on Saturday questioned the release of a Signal Mountain man who admitted to planning what it called "a Charleston-style terror attack" on a Muslim community in New York. CAIR also called for stepped up protection for the community targeted in the plot. Judge ... (click for more)

Could The Marriage Decision Spark A New Independence Day?

I confess that this year I am having a hard time with the idea of celebrating the 4th of July Independence Day. It is not because I am not thankful to God for what was done on that day, what it represents, and the blessings I’ve experienced that flow from it. On the other hand, I want to think that maybe this year’s celebration will mark a period in our history in which a new movement ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Hay Fields Of July

Oh my goodness, July has just arrived and during my formative years, it was the most hated month of the year. When I was 12 years old, my wonderful grandfather decreed the days of begging for money to go to the picture show and burgers at the Krystal were over, that I was on the payroll for a dollar an hour and, in our family, folks worked for what they spent. Now my grandfather, ... (click for more)