Langhorne Players is ambitious. They challenge themselves: their directors, set designers and actors. They strive to offer their audiences something beyond the typical community theater experience.…
Langhorne Players is ambitious. They challenge themselves: their directors, set designers and actors. They strive to offer their audiences something beyond the typical community theater experience. With Diana Son’s Stop Kiss, Langhorne Players succeeds again.
Stop Kiss has an ambitious format — a linear spine of flashbacks interspersed with aching limbs, all told with no intermission. The protagonist, Callie, is portrayed by the luminous Carla Ezell, who holds this gangly body together with incredible strength. Ms. Ezell is spectacular, brave, commanding — the very definition of ambitious. Callie is not.
Callie is just happy enough with her life. She has a rather public profession as an award-winning helicopter traffic reporter, but values her privacy, so much so that she feels compelled to place tape over the peephole before she lets loose with her dance moves in the seclusion of her own apartment. It’s a spacious New York City apartment, acquired through piercing heartbreak, but she allows the sanctuary of her home to be auditorily invaded twice a week by a noisy neighbor. She has friends, including one with bed privileges, which he rather abuses.
Callie may report on traffic trouble for a living, but she runs and hides from confrontation in her own life. She doesn’t even balk when a friend of a friend of a friend wants her to take in her cat.
The cat’s owner is Sara, played with restrained force by Leann Newman. Sara seeks out adventure, running after it with widespread arms, although such openness is new to her and she isn’t always up to the challenge. She recently left her longtime boyfriend, parents, and comfortable position in a private school for a teaching fellowship in the Bronx — to replace a teacher who had been shot dead by his student.
Sara was once “the kid who had the right answer, who never raised her hand, hoping the teacher would call on them.” Now she has a classroom full of them. She celebrates when a third-grader writes her own name for the first time, and is inspired when her 8-year-old student shuts down a mouthy crackhead during an after-school walk with his teacher.
“Best thing to do is to walk on by,” says Callie as Sara relates the tale.
Sara is too impressed by the boy’s backbone to listen. Her own is growing strong in her adopted city and it feels good. Sara is ready to spread her wings, finally. Thai food? Sure, she’ll try it. The subway late at night? Why not. Dancing at a lesbian bar? Come on, Sara says to Callie, let’s go.
Callie gains some momentary strength from her new friend and suggests sitting on a park bench in the wee hours of the morning, where the two women share their first kiss.
But as with the rest of their lives, nothing is private, nothing is sacred — not even a first, delicate kiss in a budding romance. They are always being watched: by the car-driving public, by impressionable schoolchildren, by violent crackheads.
Director Jack Bathke has peripheral characters on stage with the two women, always watching, always judging, as is the case with the detective, played by Vincent Pileggi who is also the assistant director, set designer and builder.
Detective Cole is condemnatory and unkind. Somehow that the two women were kissing on what becomes the worse night of their life seems important to him, as if it justifies their pain.
Sara’s ex, portrayed by Jonathan Edmondson, is in denial and overcome with jealousy. “Why was she protecting you?” he screams at Callie.
And for the self-absorbed George, played by Ken Marblestone, the women’s trauma is all about him and his pain.
Instead, it is other women who stand in witness to the ordeal Callie and Sara are suffering. Kathryn Wylde brings a jaundiced acceptance to her Mrs. Winsley character and compassion to her medical professional character. Mrs. Winsley was watching over the women from her window above and helped in the only way she could. The nurse watches over them now.
Both of Ms. Wylde’s characters acknowledge Callie and Sara’s relationship with a matter-of-factness that Callie herself hasn’t yet reached. Sara’s and her churning relationship was interrupted before Callie could get on board and now the train has chugged to the next station without her.
Callie has to decide if she will redeem her ticket or refund it. But people are watching. Callie is exposed, laid bare. In a heartwrenching scene, Callie is center stage and under the glare of the spotlight, which despite her public persona is not comfortable for her. She urges herself to “speak truth to power” but doesn’t “know what that means.”
Yet to back quietly away from the commotion would be to betray Sara. Saying nothing would permit Sara’s parents and ex to reclaim Sara for the former life she had fled, right when Sara is at her most vulnerable. Right when the two women had only just begun to love.
–by Jodi Thompson
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is a wonderful place to enjoy nature and learn about native plants. Take a peek at BCP’s photographer Bailey’s visit.
Flowers fill my flickr account. Georgia O’Keefe is one of my favorite painters. Botany was among my college electives. So, it’s no surprise that blossoming beauties bewitch me: sensual, fragrant, colorful.
I shot these lovelies during a meander in the meadow at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Guided by Dave, the volunteer naturalist, who schooled me on the many varieties including ornamental grasses. “Sedges have edges, thrushes are round and grasses are hollow right up from the ground.” The catchy poem stays with you.
As does the sight of the afternoon light on these hardy blooms. Dave also told the group that hummingbirds love the color red. Something I must share with my mother, but I have a feeling she probably already knows.
Thanks to Dave, and his guided hour-long tour, I now know most of these native plant names. Except for these pictured above. Any guesses anybody?
Bucks County Playbook’s photographer, Bailey, visits one of my favorite places and makes some wonderful photos. Grounds for Sculpture is just over the Delaware River from Bucks County and shouldn’t be missed.
Has there ever been a place you’ve driven by a hundred times and assured yourself you’d eventually visit?
With a son living in NYC, I’d travelled to and from the Hamilton train station in New Jersey more times than I could count. Along I-295, near the exit, enormous pieces of art would capture my eye and take my breath. More pieces surround the road by the station entrance. I yearned to wander into the whimsy of their origin, but never had. Until last week.
I finally explored the Grounds for Sculpture. But only just a bit of it, as the art park was offering a twilight special. And I think at least four hours are needed to really immerse yourself in this 47-acre wonder. But go, get a glimpse, because from now until September 3, the grounds will stay open late from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for just…
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A quick road trip to Maine with my best bud. Ahh, to return…even if it means leaving Bucks behind.
Succulent lobster, sweet blueberries, cool water, and rocky shorelines – that’s how I remember Maine. The Pine Tree State’s salty charm, untamed vastness and nonconforming nature have always held appeal.
So when asked to be a plus one for a good friend housesitting for her niece, I had my suitcase packed even before discussing it with my family.
“Did I mention the house is on the water, there are kayaks and….”she said.
”Oh, I’m in,” I told her. “You had me at Maine.”
Aside from reveling in this much needed girl time, I’d hoped to explore, shoot some gorgeous scenery and maybe even capture a moose. In anticipation, I hung my camera around my neck en route. Playing with shutter speeds to photograph the passing pines, I merely stared, mouth agape, as a dog-like-creature leapt in front of us and soared across Interstate 95.
At least a moose would have been…
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Sometimes the best places aren’t in Bucks County. My wonderful photog, Bailey, took this pic on a recent roadtrip. Enchanting.
Coming soon: some notes about a gospel performance this weekend, a play review and a profile of a Bucks County artist. For now, a puzzle, because they’re fun. Although there is a letter used only once, I’m confident a clue isn’t necessary, as there are several words in the quote that are easy puzzlers. If I’m wrong, I’m certain you’ll let me know.
PY GBL AKCD C MBPOK XPQAPE GBL HCG “GBL OCEEBQ SCPEQ,” QAKE NG CII FKCEH SCPEQ, CEZ QACQ MBPOK XPII NK HPIKEOKZ. -MPEOKEQ MCE RBRA
— Jodi Thompson
There’s no shortage of community theater opportunities in Bucks County. One that has flown under my radar is Acting Naturally, a nonprofit that teaches acting, singing and dancing. Acting Naturally’s Youth Company presents Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Newtown Theatre April 5, 6 and 7.
I’d welcome some comments from members and their parents about the experience of joining the company. I’m also curious how many community members who are unrelated to the performers attend the show. Tickets are $12 and $15.
— Jodi Thompson
While listening to Larry Smith’s TED talk Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career, I realized the universe was speaking to me. (Yes, I have a private line with the universe, although it often drops calls.) Smith tells the same story as many before him: Follow your passion. There are very few great careers out there – only one Sheryl Sandberg. The rest are “high-workload, high-stress, bloodsucking, soul-destroying” jobs, Smith asserts. The reason we’re not Sandberg? Excuses, he says. We find excuses to not follow our bliss.
After absorbing Smith’s taunting, I took a moment to stand in my Wonder Woman pose, a la Amy Cuddy’s TED talk Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. I, indeed, have been following my passion. It is helping me “create the highest expression of [my] talent,” according to Smith. But I most love writing about the arts, entertainment and adventure of Bucks County. Something I have done fairly regularly since 2000. Wouldn’t you know that I was busy putting in my 10K hours (read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers for his 10,000-Hour Rule) while print media was in decline.
Instead of bemoaning that cruel coincidence, I’m creating this spot to highlight entertainment venues, profile artists, review plays and explore adventure opportunities. Perhaps I’ll start creating puzzles again. Whatever it becomes, it won’t be high workload, high stress, bloodsucking or soul destroying. I’ve put in my 10K hours. Let me adopt Cuddy’s winning-the-race pose for the requisite two minutes before I assure you, it will be fun.
— Jodi Thompson