Good Cooking

The Spitfire Grill

At SBCC, Friday, March 10. Shows through March

“Now it’s time to start again,” sings Percy Talbot, as she takes
a bus to Gilead, Wisconsin, to begin a new life. After being
released from prison, she heads for a town she chose based on an
idyllic photo in a magazine. Gilead, however, is not what she’s
conjured up in her dreams; it’s a dead-end place, but Percy still
finds that life has meaning. In this heartfelt play, adapted from
the 1996 film of the same name, it is not only Percy who is
transformed, but the Gilead residents as well.

The cast of seven has a wonderful chemistry, making the
intimate, rural atmosphere even more realistic. When gruff diner
owner Hannah Ferguson (Katie Thatcher) reluctantly hires Percy
(Julie Ann Ruggieri), the two women both guard their emotional
walls defensively. Viewed with suspicion, Percy is defiant in front
of the diner’s regular visitors, but not for long. Shelby (Holly
Ferguson) is drawn to Percy’s independent spirit and a nurturing
relationship begins. A beautiful song, “The Colors of Paradise,”
shows how well Shelby’s lyricism and Percy’s folksy twang
complement each other, just as the characters do. The real healing
begins when Percy confesses her crime to Shelby. “I am a wild bird,
Shelby!” exclaims Percy, but Shelby embraces her story
compassionately. Hannah, too, has a wound to heal but by the end of
the first act, the three women have devised a plan to raffle off
the diner, and their joyful energy spills over. Their group number,
“Shoot the Moon,” is a pure celebration of life.

While the ending brings a resolution that seems perhaps too
neat, delightful humor permeates this show. Margaret Prothero is
very funny as Effy, a meddling postmistress. As Hannah, Katie
Thatcher’s sarcastic quips elicit much laughter. Bill Egan is
amusing as a perplexed husband, and Rod Lathim makes the audience
feel right at home with his moving song, “This Wide Woods.”
Ruggieri, as the show’s lead, delivers a strong performance in the
demanding role of Percy.

Rick Mokler has directed another successful musical with his
Spitfire Grill — his 43rd directorial assignment for the SBCC
Theatre Group. Come to enjoy an uplifting story, an expertly
designed set, and the live music, and you will be inspired.


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