Monday, April 6, 2009

Common Ground by Antoinette Winstead, ProArts Collective, April 3-5

An impressive cast brought San Antonio playwright Antoinette Winstead's Common Ground to the Boyd Vance theatre this past weekend, with the sponsorship of the Pro Arts Collective. LeVan Owens stands tall at the center of the piece, in the character of James Parker, a powerfully built man stiff legged from a rodeo accident long ago. He's a dutiful son enduring a deep, mute resentment.

Winstead sets the piece at a Christmas sometime in the early 70s, starting the action with the unexpected arrival home of younger brother Luke, an Air Force pilot back from Vietnam. Luke's wife Sara Beth and his six-year-old child Veronica have for some undefined period (years?) been living with the boys' mother, "Miss Ruth."

In program notes Winstead says that Common Ground is her attempt at addressing family dysfunction in all its dark and illustrious glory.

The situation depicted is plausible. The drama arises from tensions between the brothers and the enigmatic position in the family of Luke's wife Sara Beth. Six-year-old Ronnie is a lively and inquisitive child who worships Uncle James and initially distrusts the smooth, smiling stranger said to be her father. And "Miss Ruth," with a mother's sharp eyes and authority works hard to keep comity in the household with the best weapons she has at hand -- cooking, chores for everyone, good-natured grousing, and, when necessary, straight talk.

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