The Cement Traveler Diaries
September 13, 2017
By Gregory Bernstein
I never forget the first time in The Comédie-Française, The National Theater, Tovstonogov’s BDT, Mariinsky, Chicago Symphony, Covent Garden, Vienna Opera, Musikverein, and the Alabama Football games. They are the moments, which separate the future from the past, the time from space, when the program is a trophy, when you come to the right country, in the right city, at the lucky time, fight for the right tickets, and leave the coat in the cloakroom pondering to tip or not to tip. It all ends with one euphoric short moment of the perfect silence and darkness, when you seat in the famous chairs, look up
a t the famous ceilings, and think proudly: “Roll Tide”.
Tonight, was my first time to attend the Arlington Mill Community Center, room #526, where I saw a play “Charleston Revisited” – the first theater production that I ever saw about Charleston. I will cherish this evening forever, just as all the other famous venues, and not because the room #526 is near #508 “Employment Center”, or the room #523 “Department of Human Services & Community Outreach Program Satellite Office”, nor because I arrived there without a ticket or coat, after a still drive through the stalled cars on #66, the bus lanes, the metro stations, and missing several exits I should have taken to the concrete in nowhere, where I parked illegally between the trash bin and CVS.
One email from Mr. Anthony Ernest Gallo has triggered this journey. How wonderful is to call a real playwright Tony. “My friend Tony”, just as our Greek friend Tony who catches perch in the Chesapeake, just as Tony Chekov, who is as Tony as Tony Gallo - in Russian Anton is Anthony, Tony. The email said: “Invitation to Charleston Revisited production at Arlington Mill StageonWednesday September 13 at 8 PM. Tony”.
Anna was surprised with my departuresince I wanted to join Sophie’s first singing lesson, where they practice “Do-Re-Mi” from the Sound of Music in French. “Where are you going?” they both asked, but left even more puzzled with the word “revisited” than I was. Revisited by whom, why, where? All I could say, that a real dramaturge has personally invited me to see his play, and that’s the first time. Ibsen never did. Bad.
My surprise continued in the room#526since it was not a theater. Now I understand, that it was my first ever play to see not in a theater, but I asked the most stupid question in the room: “Is this a theater”. I was expecting a theater since I am preconditioned to see plays in a theater. I once saw a play in an underground bar in Leipzig, but they spoke German, I understood nothing, everyone smoked and I was washing off the smell of beer for days. Ironically the friendliest lady responded to my stupid question positively. She could have said something like: “No, it is room #526, where we revisit Charleston”, but she simply said “yes”, and her simple “yes” commenced my hour of complete joy. In the corner stood a wide cardboard box with two people behind it (eventually I realized that the two were three). They were holding two puppets – the yellow fat fluffy bird in sun glasses and the blue bird which looked similar to a beach ball. With the widest smile, I ventured to that corner and pulled out my camera. “Ladies, up with your birds, we got a photographer”, announced a rich voice from nowhere. The birds appeared immediately and bowed like Guignol marionettes. Suddenly a serious fit man stood upand explained everything. The original production was in a theater, and tonight they thought to make a short reading version of it, but without memorizing the lines. He sounded apologetic, but he should not have. What they did was magnificent, professional, original, sad, funny, strange, new, and very Charleston. I know Charleston well since our cement terminal is right there at the port. The photographs serving as the stage set were excellent and instantly recognizable. I love shrimp, butter, and grits, but sorry – it has nothing to do with the play, just my memory revisited Charleston.
The first I realized that the 79 years old man could meet his 95 years old mother, and 97 years old dad. I was thinking that the age difference between my parents and me is 30 (or something like that, I should count more carefully one day), and therefore once they hit 100, I will be 70. It made me feel young for the first time ever. It’s a strange thing, but I always felt old before prior to this play. I remember thinking: “I am already 3 years old, that’s so old”. I then though of being old at 14, 18, 22, 27 – lot’s of famous people die at 27, and 37 – also many die, and 40, 45, 48. Sophie says she is “so old, she is already 6, she wants to be a baby”. Tony turns age into time, and time into relativity, and he even quotes Einstein. He also turns Charleston into space, space into time, time into birth, and death, and space again. His birds live, just as all his other characters in a swirl of space, and time. Nothing ever dies, and everything is dead, nothing ever lives, and everything lives. They walk to the cemetery and the kitchen, the garden, and the congress. The North street NW in Washington - does it even exist, who cares, and it does if you revisit Charleston. I guess the play may come across as tragic, may be even melancholic, perhaps as Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler but “a parrot is not a crowd”, that’s just as profound as “wait and hope” in the Count of Monte-Christo. “My future is now”.
This is the play which must be acted well. Tony is lucky. Every actor was absolutely superb. I assume they are not professional actors, but it may be their secret of success.Actually, I am not sure, they may be professional, or at-least taught in some of this craft. Their voices were strong, the movement natural, the dialogs polished, and most importantly they were the real Charlotte, Mark, Gin, Jay, and Finch. Absolutely real.
I have only two grumbles – the program was from May 25th, and I can’t have the first theater without the right program. I also missed the fire truck toy. There had to be the fire truck, where was it? Therefore I have to revisit Charleston. It is not going to be the first time, but I will bring home the right program. I left this play younger than I entered. If I see it many times, I may become so young, that Tony, Sophie, and Anna will let us take the parrot home, the birds, and hopefully the fire truck. This play makes me young.
Eighty years ago, Charleston matron Charlotte Butler made a decision that changed the world. Tonight she faces that decision in her home and under the stars in St. Philips Cemetery.
This two-act mystery-comedy takes place on Logan Street in the heart of the renowned Charleston Historic district. Charlotte Butler raises thousands of flowers to the hum of classical music, cultivates birds, plays championship bridge, ballroom dances daily, sometimes cleans her own house, and spars with both her parrot Jacob and flighty neighbor Ginny(Gin) Middleton. Gin's latest flame is the distinguished former New Hampshire Senator Mark Smythe, now a Logan Street resident, who appears to have a curious interest in Charlotte. When Gin has to cancel one of their dates because of an emergency in Savannah, Mark slips in and visits Charlotte. We then learn that the visit is more than a mere curiosity, as we find out that these two bizarre people have much in common. She makes him accompany her to St Philips' Cemetery at night where they encounter someone she does not want to see.
Running Time: 68 minutes
Charlotte Butler, mid-nineties, energetic
Mark Smythe, Nearly eighty
Virginia "Gin" Middleton, fifties
Jim Haywood, mid-nineties
Mr. Blue Jay
Jacob, a parrot
GREENBELT NEWS REVIEW
Touching, Yet Mysterious GREENBELT ARTS CENTER’s Charleston Revisited
August 12, 2010
by Carol Griffith
GAC’s Charleston Revisited “Charleston Revisited,” now playing at the Greenbelt Arts Center (GAC), is a very intriguing play – sweet, touching, mysterious and spiritual. It will have one pondering its meaning long after the show is over.
Set, as the name suggests, in contemporary Charleston, S.C., the two-act play revolves around Charlotte Butler, a 95-year-old matron and pillar of the community. She leads a quiet life amid her birds and flowers, except for visits by her neighbor Gin. Gin is dating a famous senator who expresses a great desire to meet Charlotte. One night Gin must break a date with him and he appears at Charlotte’s door. So begins a tautly written game of cat-and-mouse, which builds strongly to a surprising conclusion. The intertwining themes of forgiveness, redemption and family add a touching dimension to the play. Adding a bit of humor and some narration are three of Charlotte’s “birds,” which adds a nice touch to the show.
The show is a guest production by Seventh Street Playhouse. Anthony Gallo is the talented playwright and director of “Charleston Revisited.” He has written over 50 plays, 10 of which have been published. The troupe consists of impressive actors and they are excellent in their roles. Actress and co-director Ericka Drezek is known to GAC audiences as a very talented performer. The
set is minimalist and slightly distracting at times but doesn’t detract from the quality of the play. Overall, “Charleston Revisited” is a great show.
“Charleston Revisited” will play on the Friday and Saturday evenings of August 13 and 14 and on Sunday, August 15 at 2 p.m. Reservations may be made
through the box office at 301-441-8770 or at the Arts Center at 123 Centerway, located beneath the Co-op supermarket.
ANTHONY E. GALLO 2025446973 firstname.lastname@example.org