The Kansas City Star (excerpts):
This handsomely mounted show features two charismatic performers, Nedra Dixon and Vanessa Severo, and marks respected actor Walter Coppage’s directing debut. It benefits from impressive work by a design team that includes Victor En Yu Tan (lights), Shannon Smith-Regnier (costumes) and Matthew Mott (sets).
(Playwright Frank Higgins’) exploration of the importance of real folk music and what it means to the people who keep it alive becomes an absorbing journey for the viewer. Coppage leads us with a firm hand to the final moment of the show, which can only be described as an electric moment of pure theater.
(Nedra) Dixon holds the stage with Shakespearean authority… The emotional depth of her performance is consistently impressive.
(Vanessa) Severo is, as always, a magnetic presence on stage…
In the final moments, Pearl is alone onstage and in an expression of grief sings a rare old song that recalls the journey of slaves bound for a life of captivity in America. Dixon’s heartfelt performance, along with subtle but dramatic lighting effects and striking visual images projected onto the set, concludes the production with something like a spiritual epiphany. Call it what you will, it packs a punch.
Kansas City playwright Frank Higgins has written a quiet masterpiece, and Spinning Tree Theatre has given it a powerful voice in actors Nedra Dixon and Vanessa Severo, directed by Walter Coppage.
Nedra Dixon is a marvel as Pearl Johnson. In addition to her pitch-perfect comic timing and generous acting, her voice is rich, earthy, and unself-conscious. Pearl comes to life as a deeply human woman, and that humanity shines through the songs she sings which connect her to her past. Dixon’s portrayal is varied and wise, and we feel how the songs Pearl sings are only as important as the memories they are attached to.
Dixon and (Vanessa) Severo shared a beautiful onstage chemistry that propelled Higgins’ wonderful story to a willing audience. This is the type of theater that Spinning Tree produces masterfully, and it should draw audiences from all over the metro…so we can all experience this story of music as a powerful connector and art as a savior of people and time.