Pride's Crossing: Shimmering Waters

Local Arts Reviews


Pride's Crossing: Shimmering Waters

Zachary Scott Theatre Center, through June 4

Running Time: 2 hrs, 30 min

As the "Water" production in Zach Scott's "Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit" quintet for its Millennium Season, Pride's Crossing serves nicely. Michael Raiford's terrific set has a pool down front into which there is the occasional drip-drop from the rafters. The wet element is a constant presence, a steady theme, and a pretty aesthetic around which swirl and hobble a cast of Austin stars that includes David Stahl, king of last year's spontaneous Pinter revival, the breathy Catherine Glynn of the Rude Mechanicals, Greg Holt, Helen Merino, and newcomer Esther Gottesman. The cast of seven plays a total of 20 characters, all of whom are more vibrant than one might expect given the subject matter: the life story of a 90-year-old woman named Mabel Tidings from Pride's Crossing, Massachusetts, who in her youth swam the English Channel.

Tina Howe's script itself is PBS-esque -- one of those sleepy specials about a lively old woman looking quaintly back on her privileged youth, her hard, proper married life, her one moment in the sun, the man she loved whom she let get away. Very Titanic. And despite a few emotional clichés ("Look at me, mama!"), it's one of those thoroughly absorbing, wistful period pieces ideal for cozying up to when you're home sick and don't have cable. But throw a bunch of charming actors into the mix and have hip timing guru Sarah Richardson of the Rude Mechanicals direct, and you get a play happily at odds with its Masterpiece Theatre-worthy tale.

Richardson, fresh from a lead role in Terry Galloway's In the House of the Moles, ably, briskly directs this tour de force of flash-forwards and backs spanning the years 1917 to 1997. Under Richardson's guidance, the sentimental and campy sit side by side, as in the climactic croquet party scene, where Michael Miller (who appeared in last month's The Possibilities) attends as "Pinky," wearing a pink muu-muu and heels. If gags like this forestall a bit the high drama to which the play eventually rises, it also keeps the show from falling prey to heavy-handedness.

Starring as Mabel Tidings ("M.T."), the divine Meredith Robertson is all presence and punch. She nails the flashbacks to ages 10 through 50. But when she limps out as M.T. at 90, it's a little hard not to notice her dark hair or to hearken back to her recent run in this same theatre as The Rocky Horror Show's Magenta. Not only was she all snarling vamp in that role, but last winter's Santaland Diaries had her on Zach's smaller stage draped across a piano belting out songs like "Making Love Alone." For all the hobbling and smacking her lips in 90-year-old gumption, her funny, sexy style makes her scenes of decrepitude in Pride's Crossing a little far-fetched. But they are no less compelling. In fact, Zach Scott's production does such a beautiful job of balancing out the old with the young, the blue-blooded story with a genuine wit, tenderness, and fluidity, that the show, while long, both glides by and shimmers.

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pride's crossing zachary scott theatre center, tina howe, sarah richardson, meredith robertson, david stahl, catherine glynn, helen merino, greg holt, michael miller, esther gottesman, michael raiford

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