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Now Playing:
"Anatomy of a Hug," August 19-27, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.


Upcoming:
"Driving Miss Daisy," September 1-11, Sumter Little Theatre, 775-2150.

"My Fair Lady," September 9-25, Town Theatre, 799-2510.


"Tail! Spin!" September 9-17, Trustus Side Door Theatre, 254-9732.


"The Hound of the Baskervilles," September 9-18, Chapin Theatre Company, 240-8544.

"The Music Man," September 23 - October 9, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream," September 30 - October 8, USC Drayton Hall, 777-5208.

"Big, the Musical," September 30 - October 9, On Stage Productions, 351-6751.

"Grounded," October 7-12, USC Lab Theatre,
777-5208.

"The Rocky Horror Show," October 7 - November 5, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.

"Ain't Misbehavin'," October 20-30, Sumter Little Theatre, 775-2150.

"Cosi," November 11-19, USC Longstreet Theatre, 777-5208.

"Almost, Maine," November 17-20, USC Lab Theatre, 777-5208.

"A Christmas Carol, the Musical," December 1-18, Town Theatre, 799-2510.

"A Christmas Story," December 1-11, Sumter Little Theatre, 775-2150.

"'Twas the Night...," December 2-10, On Stage Productions, 351-6751.

"Deck the Halls With Chardonnay," December 2-11, Shapin Theatre Company, 240-8544.

"The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical," December 2-17, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.

"You Can't Take it With You," January 20 - February 5, Town Theatre, 799-2510.

" Boy," January 13-21, Trustus Side Door Theatre, 254-9732.
 




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Walking On Water Productions

On Stage Productions
Anatomy of a Hug Is A Laugh-Filled Character Study of Wounded Survivors

Review by August Krickel

"You can live here until you die - but you are no longer my mother."  That's a chilling line, laden with emotion, and it forms the crux of Kat Ramsburg's new play Anatomy of a Hug, running at Trustus Theatre as the winner of the organization's annual Playwrights' Festival.  Through "compassionate release" - a legal process allowing for a convict with a terminal illness to be cared for by family members instead of the corrections system - a convicted murderer (Dewey Scott-Wiley) spends her final days with a daughter (Rebecca Herring) she hasn't seen in 26 years. Neither woman fully grasps her desperate need for connection with the other, but a wise social worker (Annette Grevious) senses that some closure or resolution is essential for both. What could have been a dreary and depressing plotline for a soap opera is instead a lively, touching, and - believe it or not - laugh-filled character study of wounded survivors, thanks to three-dimensional characterizations by the leads, and the nuanced writing of author Ramsburg.

As mother Sonia, Scott-Wiley is achingly vulnerable yet also endearingly goofy; she finds a sympathetic humanity within what could be a very unlikable character. Rebecca Herring is a complete delight as daughter Amelia, a dvd binge-watcher who has used television as a crutch, a painkiller, a companion, and a surrogate parent while growing up in foster care. Her timing is impeccable in moments of both comedy and tragedy, as when Sonia advises her daughter to try to live her life, and Amelia deadpans "I'll get right on that."   I remain unsure if Amelia's job with an international children's charity, seeking sponsors for orphans in Africa, is a perfect metaphor and outlet for the character's familial dysfunction, or a bit too obvious and heavy-handed. Yet the fact that I'm still conflicted on that 24 hours later speaks to the complexity of the author's intent. Patrick Michael Kelly plays Ben, Amelia's co-worker and potential love interest, and he brings energy, commitment, and intensity to his portrayal. Yet however adept his characterization may be, I feel it's wrong for the role. Ben's blustery charm and smarmy aggressiveness are obviously covers for his own insecurity, but I feel his non-stop patter should be more sweet and impish than Kelly showed on opening night. Or to use an example from Friends - its theme song and those from many other classic series are used extensively throughout this production - Ben needs to be more of a gentle and lovable Chandler Bing figure, in order to convincingly bring Amelia out of her shell.

Amanda's addiction to television is more than just a plot element, however; the motif of the medium pervades the entire production, with Baxter Engle's set resembling the soundstage for a sit-com. Bold primary colors  to the rear of the stage suggest a test pattern, while flashing signs give cues for laughter, applause, and "awwwwwws." Director Chad Henderson explains in program notes that Amelia imagines herself as the protagonist in the story of her life. It's certainly a design and staging concept that deserved to be tried, but I fear it detracts from just how much of an impact pop entertainment has had on the evolution of Amelia's personality. With no available adult role models, television became her only source to learn the way people are supposed to act, react, and behave in adult life. It's significant that she is most passionate when defending the finale of Lost, explaining the characters' need to resolve assorted personal issues in their lives... just as she unwittingly will do with her mother. A passing reference to the unpleasantness of season 6 of Buffy becomes vastly more meaningful and poignant if one knows how that season chronicles the indestructible vampire slayer's inability to cope with the responsibilities of being an adult following her mother's death. The script is replete with purposeful little gems like that, and I found myself hanging on every word of the compelling and utterly natural dialogue. 

Anatomy of a Hug was developed over two years in several readings and workshop productions, and could probably stand one more polish; the current running time is about an hour and 40 minutes, and is presented here as a long one-act with no intermission. I'd have been more than happy to see another scene of attempted mother-daughter bonding, and another date gone awry between Ben and Amelia, just to develop these appealing characters further. Similarly, I wish that the titular hug - a reference to Ben's attempts to break through Amelia's defensiveness - could somehow incorporate Sonia as well. And given the episodic nature of each scene, the play's narrative flow wouldn't suffer a bit if there were a nice intermission included.  But Ramsburg's mastery of genuinely witty and believable character-centric comedy, along with the ability to craft moments of heart-breaking truthfulness and insight, make her the actual star of this production, which is appropriate, given that the theater's intent is to showcase the work of new authors. I look forward to future works from her.   Anatomy of a Hug only runs through Saturday, August 27; visit http://www.trustus.org or call (803) 254-9732 , ext. 2, for ticket information.


 
 

 
 

 










 
 


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