Best Production (2001)

A Love Song For Miss Lydia

This past year hasn't been uniformly stellar for Fort Worth's Jubilee Theatre: Its 2000 production of Black Nativity was watered-down by a mix of amateur singing and movement, and Hedy Understands Anxiety turned a career woman's hunt for the truth about her mother into a symphony of shouting, hand-wringing and brow-knitting. But the glittering successes made us feel like members of the Mile High Club--floating in midair from and ravished by sheer theatrical prowess. Coop De Ville: Time-Travelin' Brother, the sequel to Jubilee's oft-revived Negroes in Space, took musical inspiration from Parliament/Funkadelic and the Stax/Volt label as Robert Rouse saved an order of nuns who worship James Brown and wear Prince's erstwhile name-symbol on their gowns; Fat Freddy's was another rollicking original musical with one showstopper after another, in which Carolyn Hatcher and Sheran Goodspeed-Keyton fend off suitors in a mythical after-hours dive. Jubilee proved it could turn the volume down for equally impressive dramatic forays. Lonne Elder III's seminal 1965 Ceremonies in Dark Old Men vividly explained the easy lure and easier rationalizations of crime in an urban neighborhood saturated with it, prophesying troubles that plagued the black community for the next 35 years. But the modest stunner that carried emotional resonance far beyond its tiny "Christian" apartment setting in Philadelphia--and beyond Jubilee itself--was A Love Song For Miss Lydia. Director Rudy Eastman saw to it that Mary Catherine Keaton Jordan, younger than her aged role but brilliantly believable, was heartbreaking as the title character who gets new hope from an aggressive, flattering boarder (Lloyd W.L. Barnes Jr.) just as she thought her life was winding down.

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