By Jill Gilmer
“Can I speak to them?” Ginger Andrews asks, referring to her family as she watches them weep at Ginger’s funeral. She poses the question to a fellow angel who is watching the funeral with her from their heavenly perch. “No,” the other angel replies. “That is what your life was for.”
Talk to the people you love while you are still alive. This is the simple yet provocative message of Trudy Blue, a play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marcia Norman presented by the Dramatists Theatre. The play is based on Ms. Norman’s personal journey after she learns that she has two months to live. Like Ms. Norman, lead character Ginger Andrews, a novelist, later learns that her doctor’s diagnosis of lung cancer is wrong. Thus, she will have to continue living her dreary life, a fate more devastating to Ginger than the death prediction. The play takes place nearly entirely in Ginger’s mind as she contemplates conversations with her family and with Trudy Blue, a character from one of her novels who also represents Ginger’s alter ego. The play mingles these “real conversations with imaginary people and imaginary conversations with real people” interchangeably, an intriguing technique that is at times confusing to the audience.
The Dramatists Theatre’s production of Trudy Blue is a commendable adaptation of a difficult story. Unfortunately, its overall impact is diminished by an inexperienced cast, which offers the audience minimal assistance in understanding or caring about the two central characters, Ginger and her alter-ego, Trudy Blue. A tedious first act may lose some audience members while the stage is set for the more compelling second half. This notwithstanding, a play of this complexity is an impressive accomplishment for a theatre company in its second season, operating on a shoe-string budget. (The actors were not paid, and artistic director Marjorie Shoemann also manned the box office and snack bar.)VS
Trudy Blue is the second installment in the Dramatists Theatre’s series of plays by Marcia Norman. Each season, the company showcases the work of a single playwright. Trudy Blue runs through Saturday, November 18 at the Marian Center for Non-Profits, 3211 S. Lake Drive. Tickets are $16. For reservations, please call 414-243-9168.