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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Not-So-Crazy Quilt

From the Vault Dept.: An early (in my reviewing career) review of the musical Quilters – a review that glows with praise but otherwise doesn’t tell very much, but nevertheless boasts an I’m-so-smart Nabokov reference. It’s followed by the earlier advance I wrote.


Beverly Fite in Quilters
THE PROTEAN VILLAIN (or antihero, really) of Nabokov’s Lolita is named Clare Quilty, the clarity of his character obscured by the crazy quilt of his various identities. An effective use of the guilt as a metaphor, it established, for me at any rate, an interest in the literary possibilities afforded by that item.

Ample justice to that subject has been done by the authors of the newest Capital Repertory offering, Quilters, which seeks to provide not only a look at the pioneer women whose vital role in expanding the frontiers of this country isn’t well recognized, but also a quilt-like framework to the story, giving us patches of story that are then woven into a dramatic whole.

Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek put together the book, inspired by a study titled Quilters: Women and Domestic Art. They followed that with interviews of pioneer women, and the authenticity of their material shines through.

The show is divided into sixteen sections, each taking its name from a block of the quilt being put together by Sarah Bonham who, at 83, is finishing her “legacy” quilt. Beverly Fite plays the role with the look and vigor of Marjorie Main, easily going from one scene as matriarch of a large family to another in which she plays herself as a much younger woman, responding to her own mother. And those are just two of the many roles she plays throughout the show – not unlike the aforementioned Clare Quilty. The six younger women in the cast, who also take on a variety of roles of all ages and both sexes, are Mary Gaebler, Julie White, Marjorie Berman, Mary Baird., Kate Kelly, and Anne O’Sullivan.
The music is by co-author Damashek, combining original songs with well-known hymns, all in an authentic-sounding style. Marjorie Berman doubled as choreographer, with some wonderful high-steppin’ dances the result. The musical ensemble, which makes an onstage appearance at the beginning of Act Two, is made up of Otto Gardner on bass; Melanie Sue Harby, who plays a number of instruments including guitar and banjo (and played in the L.A. and Broadway Quilters companies); Tara Nevins, violinist; and Carolyn Odell, who plays guitar, banjo and hammered dulcimer.

Louis Rackoff directed the production; the deceptively simple set is by Ray Recht, whose design cannot be overpraised. The show will run through March 3, and you are advised to take this opportunity to share the fun and pain of the women who moved us west.

Metroland Magazine, 7 February 1985


THAT QUIETLY SATISFYING OCCUPATION of making a quilt – producing warmth and security from bits and pieces – is theme and metaphor for the next offering at Capital Repertory Company. Quilters, a musical by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek, opens at the Market Theatre Saturday at 8 P.M. and will play at 8 P.M. Tuesdays through Fridays, 4:30 and 9 P.M. on subsequent Saturdays and at 2:30 P.M. on Sundays, through March 3.

The stories in Quilters tell the history of Sarah McKendree Bonham, who is 83, as she and her six daughters finish her “legacy” quilt, which is all that she believes she will leave behind in this world. The seven episodes of the show take their titles from some of the blocks of the blanket: “The Lone Star,” “Tree of Life,” and “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul” are some examples. The settlers’ journey West – this is from the pioneer days, after all – is recounted in “Rocky Road to Kansas”; “Log Cabin” describes the search for shelter, and the humorous “Four Doves in a Window” tells of a woman’s coming of age.

Quilters began as an audition piece for Molly Newman; with the score by Barbara Daniashek, it had its first performance at the Denver Center Theatre in 1982.

In the cast at Capital Rep are Beverly Fite as Sarah and Mary Gaebler, Julie White, Marjorie Berman, Mary Baird, Kate Kelly, and Anne O’Sullivan as her daughters. Hank Levy is the music director.

Tickets are priced from $9.50 to $15 and are available at the Market Theatre box office, CBO outlets and at the Saratoga Circuit in Saratoga Springs.

Metroland Magazine, 31 January 1985

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