Last night I sat in on a rehearsal of “Ruby Lips Above the Water’ which opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Wild Rose Theater with some cast changes. Once again, I was drawn into the lives of five women and two men in northern Minnesota in 1987 and wanted it to go on so I would know the rest of the story.
The two bickering friends Irene (Vicki Stenerson) and Melva (Sarah Einerson) add a comic relief to the overall serious nature of the story which revolves around Ruby, a 27 year old developmentally disabled woman and Pearl, her over protective mother. Pearl makes so many mistakes because she truly loves Ruby and wants only the best for her daughter. But Pearl cannot let Ruby voice an opinion on what she wears, how her hair is cut, what she drinks, and well, you can guess the rest of the do’s and don’ts. Ruby has the same hormones as any other young woman her age and she wants to be like them and not like the prepubescent child that her mother demands. Vicki Wangberg as Pearl brings to the role a depth that comes from having a child of her own with Down Syndrome.
The women meet each morning at Jo’s café for breakfast and gossip. Jo (Julie Quanrud) and her boyfriend Marshall (Kevin Cease) are two more of the caring adults who love and support Ruby (Emily Quanrud).
Once again, I must say that this is the best role that Kevin has ever had for he plays an adult man who can see and empathize with the aspirations of Ruby. He relates to her with a tenderness that comes from knowing how a father can talk to a daughter and is even uncomfortable when Ruby wants to know more about the birds and bees.
Another actor from the first production at the Chief a couple of years ago is Sarah Einerson. She spoke about the intimacy of setting in the Wild Rose which works very well because the audience will be brought into the action. For this production, the author Steve Saari is also the director. The three newest members of the cast each bring their own perspective to their characters.. Emily is a softer and a more compliant Ruby; Vicki Stenerson as Irene is more exasperated with her friend Melva and Steven Mayer is new to the repertory group and has never had this large a role before. He is a student at BSU. Steven plays the role of a womanizer and all around bad guy who is into the drug trade and uses sex to overwhelm and subjugate. Ruby is afraid of him and yet curiously drawn to him when he tells her that “she looks almost normal.”
Yes, there is some language and a rape that takes place off stage. But don’t let that keep you away from this play for it addresses the quandary of all parents with a child whose mental capacity is limited but their physical and emotional needs are the same as any other person. The play is PG-13 and suitable for upper class high schoolers and up because of the mature subject matter. Don’t miss it this time around for it is worth an evening of your time. There is a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday and a final 7:30 show on Monday, Feb. 9. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors and $5 for students.
The deadline to make a reservation for the 4th Annual Gala Love Songs and Arias is Monday, Feb. 6. The seating is expanded this year to allow for easier movement between the tables for the singers and attendees. Familiar performers from past galas will be on hand and also the mezzo-soprano who will be singing at the Loon Opera Company June production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” Allison LaPointe will sing the role of Suzuki, the supporting character of Cio Cio San’s maid and confidant.
The gala is an opportunity to hear wonderful music, enjoy a gourmet dinner and support this fledgling opera company founded by Bemidji’s own Abe Hunter. If you cannot make the evening, please consider making a contribution toward the upcoming production. Tickets are $50 each and checks should be made out to Loon Opera Company and sent to 1007 Bemidji Ave., Bemidji, MN 56601. Any questions can be directed to Abe at 218-368-8805 or check here for website.
Love Songs and Arias at the Hampton Inns and Suites, Saturday, Feb. 11.
Social Hour with cash bar will start at 6 p.m.
Dinner and performance will begin at 7 p.m.