One of the more popular plays on the regional circuit, John Henry Redwood's The Old Settler, now finishes up its run at Kansas City, MO's Unicorn Theatre, Feb. 13. The show, which began previews Jan. 19 and officially opened Jan. 21, has already sold out the Feb. 12 matinee, but tickets are generally available for the other remaining performances.
A warm-hearted, bittersweet comedy about middle-aged black ladies who take in a handsome boarder, the play was embraced by critics in presentations at NJ's McCarter Theatre, CT's Long Wharf Theatre and Virginia Stage before reaching Off-Broadway's Primary Stages Theatre in late 1998 in a production starring Leslie Uggams and Lynda Gravatt. Karen Cline-Wright and Jacquee Gafford star in the Unicorn staging, which also features Damron Armstrong as Husband and Tiffany Smith (in a last minute cast change for previously-announced Gina Greene) as the hussy, Lou Bessie. Cline-Wright and Gafford already have one Unicorn collaboration under their belts: last season's Having Our Say.
Redwood's comedy-drama about Harlem in the 1940s was recognized with a special citation from the American Theatre Critics Association and won the 1995 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild/Julie Harris Playwriting Award and Virginia Duvall Mann Playwriting Award.
According to Redwood's play, the title refers to a woman, 40-plus, whose prospects for marriage are basically nil. The author based his story on his mother and aunt, who shared a home after his father died. "I used to watch them bicker about little minor things and they would go on and on," he said. "I wanted to capture the love of these two sisters over time."
For tickets and information on The Old Settler, directed by Brad Shaw at Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main Street in Kansas City, MO, call (816) 531-0421. -- By David Lefkowitz