By Laddy Sartin
Directed by Michael J. Drury
Reviewed by Carlos Manuel
Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Carlos Manuel. All rights reserved.
Catfish Moon by Laddy Sartin is one of those simple, old-fashioned Southern stories written in a straightforward manner that if not acted with conviction can become a real bore. The story relates the "ups and downs" of three middle-aged men – Curley, Gordon and Frog – who visit the old fishing pier found at the end of Cypress Lake.
As the story goes, the pier used to be the men’s favorite hangout when they were kids; and now that the property is for sale, Curley buys the land because it holds a special place in his heart. It reminds him of the good old times he had with his two best friends. Gordon and Frog, however, have drifted apart, thanks to the reality and bitterness of life and because a woman has become between them. This woman, Betty, happens to be Curley’s sister and at some point was married to Frog; but now divorced, she is dating Gordon. This situation places Curley in the middle of them all; but because somehow he always has acted as “the big brother” of them all, he is, in a symbolic way, the glue that keeps this group together.
Under the direction of Michael Drury, with a set by Karl Anderson, lighting by Theresa Bagan and sound by Laura Ellis, this production by Actor’s Choice Theater, like the script, is a straightforward, simple presentation that most people will enjoy if looking to reminisce about the "good old times" and the friendships that once were part of our lives but perhaps ended because we all took different paths as we got older.
Tim Kitchen as Curley does a good job as the more matured and more responsible men of the group, although he looks very stiff onstage. Daniel Main in the role of Gordon also does a good job as the guy who is very much in love. Tony Prince as Frog is funny and angry and knows how to channel both emotions with precision, but at some times it was hard to understand what he was saying. And in the role of Betty, Teresa Willis is sweet and strong, navigating different emotions and attitudes while in the presence of a world filled with men.
If you like simple, straightforward, good old-fashioned storytelling, this play is for you. All the necessary elements to make this production a light and enjoyable “kitchen sink” drama are there. The introduction of the characters, their past and present situations, a love scene with funny moments, an altercation between friends, and foreshadow elements are all nicely put together in the first act. Then in the second act more character development, the obligatory “face to face” between those who don’t like each other at the present time, a surprising turn of events, an expected resolution, and an end to make you weep are also all there, nicely tight with a “feel good” ribbon that could potentially make you nauseated. But if you are a person who likes a little more than just a simple linear plot, with much stronger characters and not very obvious endings, this play isn’t for you.
Still, Catfish Moon has its good moments because it reminds us about the Aristotelian strength of a good old-fashioned linear story, good characters, clear situations, and simple resolutions. It is easy to find the symbolic elements in plays like this one. The characters were once young and innocent, with no complications in the world but trying to live a worry-free life. Now, they are older, dealing with bitterness, anger and loneliness – stuck in the same old Southern town that has not much to offer them, and where there is nothing else to do but to deal with each other whether they like it or not.
Each character has its own problems: Curley is sick and finds himself trying to fix the bickering between his friends. Gordon is in love but also dealing with alcoholic demons. Frog is lonely and now angry because his friend is dating his ex-wife. And Betty, well, she is trying to survive in the world of these three men. So yes, it is a plain and straightforward story, coming to life with grace and effortlessness by a cast of four actors who easily could find themselves in similar situation, for they are, in real life, about the same age of the characters. This is a good thing because it makes them understand what it means to be middle-aged; what it means to be happy and sad, angry and lonely; what it means to find love and then lose it. But mainly because the four actors can emotionally present themselves naked to their world as they all deal with grown-up situations and the harsh bitterness of life. And this is reason enough to appreciate a production like Catfish Moon.
May 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, & June 1 @ 7:30 p.m.
May 26 & June 2 @ 2:30 p.m.
at the Henry Clay Theatre
604 S. Third St.
Louisville, KY 40202