Through May 14
THE STICK WIFE Buffalo State Flexible Theatre/Revelation Theatre
Everyone has heard the cliché that “behind every good man is a good woman.”
But, what happens if it’s a bad man?
That conundrum is the heart of Darrah Cloud’s “The Stick Wife,” a look at a Ku Klux Klan bombing of a Black Church in Birmingham, Alabama six decades ago.
Four young girls died and 20 people were injured.
It took years to identify the bombers and more than a decade before one of them was convicted and sent to die in prison.
It wasn’t until 2000 that two of the others were convicted and in the meantime one of the four bombers died.
That isn’t at the core of Cloud’s play.
Instead, the core is the wives of three fictional bombers and what happened to them, from their perspective.
Clearly, there is long-time trauma from the husbands and their activities at home and in their white sheets.
The principal figure is Jessie Bliss (Priscilla Young Anker), a woman who is lost in another world, musing about her imagined career in Hollywood before returning to the never quite named hometown, doing her laundry and dealing with husband Ed (Steve Jakiel).
Betty Connor (Kelly Meg Brennan) is clear-eyed about what the husbands are doing in the poisonous atmosphere of “Bombingham.”
Marguerite Pullet (Christine Turturro) also appears lost in another world, never seeming to come to terms with her weak husband Tom (Andrew Salamone).
The three men aren’t goons or thugs, they are just people who see murder as a way to deal with their perceptions of the nation’s racial picture, one that hasn’t completely changed all these decades later.
In a very short time after the church is bombed, Ed Bliss is arrested and locked up.
Big Albert Connor (David Marciniak) tells the women to stay out of sight and not talk to anyone.
Jessie retreats to her back yard and does laundry, again and again, and talks to herself about her Hollywood career.
In a talkback the night I saw the show, playwright Cloud said it was important that the story of the wives be told because of their role in the events and because of a key element we learn late in the story.
You will have to go to find out and it’s based on the real story of that church bombing.
This is the first show for David Oliver’s new Revelation Theatre and he has a history of tough and penetrating theater, which this company likely will do.
The show has the advantage of Buff State’s Black Box theatre, with its professional setup.
Oliver has a strong cast, particularly Young Anker as the whispy Bliss.
There are no weak spots in the cast and they are performing on another fine set from Ron Schwartz, who certainly knows the possibilities in the Black Box.
“The Stick Wife” is a penetrating look at a bizarre time, which needs to be told and re-told.
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