For those who are unfamiliar with this beautiful little piece, and for the hundreds of local theatergoers who are probably acquainted with "Quilters," I guess the easiest way to describe "Eden Creek" is to say that it's a lot like "Quilters" - only about 50 years later and without music.
So, for most Salt Lakers (unless they caught this show a few years ago when it premiered, in its present form, at Weber State College), "Eden Creek" will be a new experience - by a brand new company in a nifty new space.The Grand Hall Gallery is an intimate, flexible space on 400 South, wedged in between Mohr's Tropical Fish and the Port O' Call private club. (Now, personally, I feel that a company labeled After the Overture Productions would be more at home in a cavernous auditorium with a big orchestra pit - for overtures. Founder/artistic director Sharee Hughes should consider renaming her company Cubby-Hole Productions. The Grand Hall Gallery is just that - a comfortable little cubbyhole.) But, just as at the Art Barn, words and dialogue spring to life with the right script and the right combination of director and performers.
What Dwight Watson has written, in "Eden Creek," is an eloquent, tender, simply-told play comprised of five dramatic vignettes about five women whose lives cross during five years in the little town of Eden Creek, a remote Indiana village on the banks of a creek (when it floods, it turns into a rampaging river) that twists and turns on its way to the Ohio.
Lives, too, twist and turn. They sort of meander. Some have goals, some don't. Some want adventure and wild times, others desire the warm safety of hearth and home.
But these are Depression Years and life isn't easy.
Not for Della, who comes home in 1933 at the age of 24 to bury her mother and help her 12-year-old sister, Sadie.
Not for Hattie, 18, who, in 1934, is facing a crisis in her life as a result of a weekend a few months earlier in Chicago.
Life isn't easy, either, for Doc Corey. She'll accept potatoes or butchered pigs as payment for her frequent birthing of babies, but she won't accept insults from those who look down on her somewhat unorthodox attitudes.
Now, life LOOKS easy for honky-tonk bargirl Abby (maybe because she IS "easy"), but she's facing a pretty rough time of it, too, especially lowering herself to move back to Eden Creek after having such a wild time in St. Louis.
And, in 1937, life is definitely not easy for Claire, who ran away at 18 (to avoid an arranged marriage with a much older man; who cares if he's the richest guy in town?), and winds up as a mother of two young boys and whose life suddenly turns tragic.
The five women are nurtured through the trials in their lives by the narrator and town caretaker, who is the glue that holds the five vignettes together.
Mikal Troy Klee's cast gives beautifully honed performances.
Della (Vallerie Trupp-Villata), Hattie (Chris Johnson), Doc Corey (Faye Barron), Abby (Missy Birdsong), Claire (Carlene Desmarais) and the narrator (Donna K.W. Johnson) are women with trials and tribulations, memories and goals with which everyone can identify.
Klee's actresses give strong performances and these are all characters that we truly care about.
There is heartfelt anguish at the loss of parents, when a home burns down, when a young girl gives up her illegitimate baby, when an infant succumbs in its mother's arms.
These are real women caught up in the hardscrabble days of the Great Depression. One seeks refuge in a factory job 25 miles away from town, another in a whirlwind trip to the Chicago World's Fair, and another in the flashy womanizers and cheap booze of a roadside honky-tonk.
There were a couple of minor problems on "preview" night, but they were inconsequential and will probably be fixed by tonight.
Klee's scenery was sparse - just enough to provide the necessary settings for the five vignettes, but not so much that the trappings would detract from the eloquence of Watson's poetic dialogue.
Audrey Terry's original music (a little too soft on the night we saw it) also helps set the right tone. Costumes (Katherine C. Hettinger) and hair designs (Chimena Winterholler) were also right on target.