“It was an evening of pure bona fide theater at the Southampton Cultural Center. The opening Saturday night ‘boots on the ground theater production’ of ‘The Chalk Garden,’ a play by Enid Bagnold, was a success on many levels. The show, brilliantly directed by Mark Heidemann, showcases a combination of great acting, phenomenal writing, plus the nostalgic magic of good old 1950s theater. ‘The Chalk Garden’ was first presented at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in NYC on October 26, 1955. This three-act production has many memorable salient moments, with all of the actors having specific shining scenes. At the conclusion of the play, the very appreciative crowd stood and cheered enthusiastically. The show runs at the SCC until October 15, 2023.
Director Mark Heidemann and Producer Bonnie Grice, who also stars as Mrs. St. Maugham, have brought to life a show that is both important and relevant as it tackles issues still confronting society. Every show has an actor who somehow lifts the show, and on opening Saturday night, that star was Nancee Moes. She had an arresting, glowing presence that somehow helped successfully shape the show. Playing the role of the very complicated Miss Madrigal, Nancee Moes shines on the stage, with clarity and dignity, delivering her often very poignant lines. I would see the show again just to watch Nancee Moes; she is that good. Yet so was everyone else, but she just stood a touch taller.
East End icon Bonnie Grice has an onstage gravitas all her own. She is very at home being front and center on the stage. Her confidence steers this show, as does her contagious driving energy that she infuses into her role as Mrs. St. Maugham. Her skill level on stage makes it all look so free and easy. Grice is always a breezily breath of fresh air.
The high-energy performance by Cheyanne Metzger as Laurel is explosive. Ms. Metzger also has a specific gravity stage presence that releases her energy right out to the last seat in the last row in a very important way. Again, like the others, her role is an important cog in the wheel of this play. Speaking of high energy, Tom Gregory as Maitland gives a brilliant performance showcasing incredible physical acting skills. With raising eyebrows, grunts, eyerolls, and distinct signature movements, Mr. Gregory rocked the appreciative audience and won them over.
Once again, Esmeralda Cabrera shines in an East End production. Playing Olivia, both Mrs. St. Maugham’s daughter and Laurel’s mother, she’s placed between two strong weighty characters, yet Ms. Cabrera rises to the occasion and delivers a wonderful performance. Kevin Magee plays ‘The Judge’ with wit, charm, and delicate finesse. His lines are important, and he wins the audience with his skillful delivery of them.
Evelyn Lubrano as the First Applicant is funny, as is Gerri Wilson playing the dual roles of Third Applicant and Nurse.
Kudos for Lighting Design go out to Daniel Schappert, as well as to Dennis Milone for Sound Design.
This show was produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.”
Visit scc-arts.org for tickets.