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Writing for CurtainUp NYC Weather
|A CurtainUp Review
By Eva Heineman
Violet is based on Doris Bett's short story "The Ugliest Pilgrim." Set in deep South, September 1964, it tells the story of a facially scarred young woman who takes a bus trip to Tulsa where a T.V. preacher man can supposedly heal away her scar and make her beautiful. Along the way she meets and gets involved with two handsome racially mixed soldiers. It's unclear how she befriends the soldiers and why they are drawn to her.
It's hard to feel sympathy for Violet as we're supposed to imagine this hideous scar across her cheek and nose. You could view the strand of hair that runs down the front of her face as representing the scar. At any rate, if she's so gruesome why does she have two gorgeous guys fighting over her? I should be so lucky?
Violet has a country and western twang with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley. Despite the shaky beginning, the show picks up with the "Luck of the Draw" number when the voices that start out shrill settle into a nice harmony. Some of the better songs include Violet's (Lauren Ward) poignantly sung "Lay Down Your Head." Flick (Michael Park) has a rousing number in "Let It Sing" with a lyric I particularly liked. . ." Put your nightmares on a shelf
Your dreams on the table<"
My very favorite song was "All to Pieces" in which Violet plans which part of a movie star she wants on her face--Gene Tierney's eyes; Ingrid Bergman's cheekbones; Ava Gardiner's eyebrows, etc.
The three love love interests --Lauren Ward, Michael Park and Michael McElroy --head the fine cast. Amanda Posner is brilliantly cast as Young Vi. She bears a striking resemblance to Lauren Ward. Robert Westenberg is an appropriately slimy preacher and it's nice to see Cass Morgan of Pump Boys and Dinette fame again.
This show is a perfect example of how a director, Susan H. Schulman, can take a poorly structured play and make it sing with very clever, smooth and beautiful staging; turning set designer Derek Mc Lane's booth chairs into bus stations, buses, cafes and waiting rooms in n seconds.
Peter Kaczorowski's wonderful lighting creates evocative images and moods. I especially liked the scene with the three streetwalkers with Violet and Monty in bed together.
Violet is 110 in the Shade in so far as Violet would rather be Millicent than plain Lizzie.