I love new works; there’s something exciting about seeing a new play for the first time produced out of passion with care and hard-work. That’s how I would categorize Isaiah Reaves new play, THE COLOR OF THE LEAVES. Reaves, who’s previous play, WYATT’S BED, was produced in the Clifton Performance Theatre is a promising young playwright. While most savvy theatre-goers will recognize the nods to the kind of stories Tennessee Williams used to tell, there’s a unique sensibility about this play that makes it distinctly Reaves own.
The story focuses on “Sheila,” played by the expressive and committed Brandi Botkin. She’s married to military hero “Mark,” (played by the brooding and intense Patrick Taft”) but she works for the very kind “Ken” (James Hummeldorf) whom treats her much better than her husband. Of course, Ken doesn’t know she has a husband.
And then there’s “Georgette.” Played by Lexi Rigsby, she’s Mark’s sister and she’s got some significant mental health problems. While extraordinarily jealous of Sheila’s role of mother and wife, it’s also fairly clear that she has an especially twisted desire to take Sheila’s place. With her brother. It’s uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as the realistic portrayal of domestic violence from Mark towards both his wife and his sister.
It’s a tough piece to act in. I especially liked the work of Hummledorf, who seemed to fully grasp what its like to love someone mysterious and reluctant. His even-keel on stage matched that of the character in written form best of all of the ensemble.
The play deals with issues of romance, abuse, trauma, and betrayal. There’s a lot packed into the ninety-minute run time and there is a lot of really impressive work on the stage of the blackbox Henry Theatre at NKU. Director J. Farley Norman uses the space resourcefully, with minimal props and set pieces to tell this story. And what a great story it is; despite it’s bleak subject matter, it does have an element of hope within.
It’s also funny. Sometimes too funny. But finding the tone of a piece like this requires a certain level of experience – seasoning, you might call it – that new theatre-creators don’t always have yet. Despite this lack of life experience, both Reaves and Farley are excellent storytellers.
Brandi Botkin as “Sheila”
Patrick Taft as “Mark”
James Hummeldorf as “Ken”
Lexi Rigsby as “Georgette”
Haley Gillman and Madelyn Jordan – Ensemble
Production: J. Farley Norman
Playwright: Isaiah Reaves
Dramaturg: Stormi Bledsoe
Stage Manager: Lindsey Risch
Asst. Director: Kevin Birdwhistle
Poster Design: Madeline Filmonov
Photo Credit: Parker Phillips