REVIEW: Morning Sun
I'm not sure I'm OK after seeing this astonishing new play.
I’m unsure where to start with the praise I want to heap on “Morning Sun,” the regional premiere play now running at Ensemble Theatre in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.
I could start with Simon Stephen’s remarkable script, which tells the unique life story of a woman named Charley McBride through the eyes of Charley herself (played brilliantly by the exquisite Annie Fitzpatrick), as well as her mother, Claudette (the mind-blowing Christine Dye), and her daughter, Tessa (played by the fabulous Becca Howell.) From her birth and chronicling her life until her death, the text is so well-written that you don’t even notice that two hours have gone by without a breath (or an intermission).
I could start with the performances; anyone who’s ever seen Fitzpatrick act knows she’s a solid hand, but this is by far the best thing I’ve ever seen her do. It’s physical. It requires her to channel the spunk of a tomboy, the fervor of a young woman in her prime, and the reflective wisdom of an aging, dying woman. This kind of performance requires wisdom, perseverance, and maturity. Fitzpatrick has all of that and more.
Christine Dye, one of the most unique performers in the region, has a knack for character work that is unparalleled. Of course, she can play it straight, but give her a quirk or a weird trait, and she will impress with authenticity and honesty. When her characters get angry, I recoil in fear. When her characters exude joy, you want to jump up and down. No matter what is happening, you believe her.
And Becca Howell, the cast's youngest member, sneaks up on you. She has an every-woman quality about her; she is a great leading role actress - but here she gets to exercise acting chops more than ever, morphing in and out of various characters (like Dye) with precision so good that you always understand what is happening.
Is that the brilliance of the script? Or is that exceptional acting? Or is it the fantastic deft directing hand of D. Lynn Meyers? Of course, Meyers’ greatest asset has always been her ability to cast roles with the right actors. But that doesn’t take away from her sense of timing, a good eye for blocking, working with sound and lighting design to set a mood, and all the other things directors do. Mostly, though, she trusts her instincts, and she trusts her actors.
The technical elements come together professionally, with such elegance that you barely notice because they are THAT good. The team at ETC is impeccable in providing support for the script and the performance, and there are not enough hyperbolic words to describe just how excellent their work is.
As a professional counselor, I meet new people all the time who tell me their stories. Everyone is unique and special and precious. It can sometimes be easy to take for granted the privilege of intimately walking through some intense subject matter with all types of people. This show takes one life and showcases our humanity in such a specific yet relatable way that I left the theatre shaken to the core.
I’m not sure I’m OK. But I’m also hopeful. And regretful. And grateful.
I’m feeling more human than I ever have.
“Morning Sun” runs through March 19th at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. Tickets and more information can be found here.
CAST (in alphabetical order)
Claudette McBride and others: Christine Dye*
Charley McBride: Annie Fitzpatrick*
Tessa McBride and others: Becca Howell*
Director: D. Lynn Meyers**
PropertiesCurator& Design Assistant: Shannon Rae Lutz
Scenic& Lighting Designer: Brian c. Mehring
Technical Director: Jack Murphy
Costume Designer: Brooke Arthur
Production Stage Manager: Margot Whitney*
Sound Designer: Matt Callahan
AssistantStage Manager: LexiMuller**
Denotes a member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.
**Director is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent national labor union
Your review makes me hungry to see this!