Monday, January 18, 2010

A Reading- "Countergirls" Performed by Old Courthouse Theatre Group

Magic occurs in the strangest of places. A movie theater, an art gallery, a trip to the library, all of these things hold the promise of a journey. But every now and again you come across a real jewel. The Concord based Old Courthouse Theatre Group is one of these jewels.

Sue and I attended a 4PM Sunday performance, actually a "reading", of the play "Counter Girls" by Michael Russell at the Old Courthouse Theatre in Concord yesterday. The Theatre Group were clearly not expecting such a crowd but happily moved us from the small basement theatre to the more spacious playhouse. It was cold inside, as the heat was off, but everyone kept their coats on and gave it a shot.

Good thing they did, too, or else they would have missed a wonderful reading of a wonderfully wry and insightful play. Read by Lenore Young, Betty Porter, Francis Quinn, Tammi Schumate, Jennifer Grant and Jonathan Ewart, the characters took on lives of their own, and the audience sailed right along with them. The personality development was swift and believable. The stools and the music racks were in plain view but vanished with their reading and it was very easy to picture the dime store where the story takes place.

Set in a small Southern town in 1990, the tale is simple on the surface. It concerns Ms. Lib, a former country singer of minor note, now the manager of the independently owned lunch counter at the local five and dime. She is the glue that holds so many lives together during the course of the play. She has faith in everyone, though at times her own patience is tried.

The 4 characters that surround her are all remarkable in their own ways. There is Lynette, a 20 year employee who fears that Betty Ruth, a newly seperated woman, is after her job. Then there is Janita, the aspiring young country singer with a strict Dad, who fears that her lifes dream is already over before it's begun. And finally, there is Donnie Ray, the "slow" young man who was given the job by Lib after his parents are killed in a fire when he was not at home. He is simple but kindly, with a fear of any emergency, as he associates the word with people dying.

The play is a window into the every day lives and dramas of some ordinary people.They form alliances and petty differences, but more importantly, they are like a small family. They even play the weekly "Lotto" out of New York together, with Billy Ray calling in the numbers each Wednesday to a customer who happened in once. Billy Ray struck up a conversation with him and they formed a freindship. Now each week they all chip in to send "Carmine" the money for the numbers they have played and already lost. And with a name like Carmine - you automatically expect the worst.

I won't be a spoiler here- so I'll just say that this play takes you on a journey. You learn to have faith that Lib will help solve everyones problems. And that's pretty easy to accept. There are people like that. And then you also learn that sometimes salvation can come from a very unexpected source in a very unconventional way.

With excellent readings and performances by all including Lenore Young as the Narrator, this was an event not to be missed. Should the Old Courthouse Theatre decide to produce this play, they will find me back to see the performance. At any rate, I will be back to see this remarkable and talented group of performers again. Bravo to all, and well done!

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