Lakewood Playhouse’s new production is Lilies of the Field, the
faith-filled tale of a young East Coast black man who wakes up one
morning and decides it’s time he takes Horace Greeley’s advice. So, he
loads up his aging station wagon and heads west.
Somewhere in the Southwest, our hero, one Homer Smith, stumbles on a group of women toiling in the fields. Being a gentleman and a "good Christian" Homer decides to stop and help. The fact that he’s temporarily out of cash and figures this is an excellent opportunity to plump up his depleted wallet plays a definite role in Homer’s decision.
The "ladies" turn out to be a group of nuns with a mother superior Hell-bent (pardon the expression) on building a chapel in this seemingly God-forsaken outpost – and therein lies our tale.
Director Stacey Gassman has staged this narrative play in the round, utilizing all of the Playhouse’s unique black-box intimacy. Her actors move about the set in an ethereal manner.
David Dear is Smith, the young man who proves that "-one man can do impossible things when he decides he has to." Dear is quite believable in his role and seems to enjoy the part. Jeanne Ross plays Smith’s nemesis/divine light, Mother Maria Marthe. Ross holds the dignity the role requires, but her demeanor seems a bit too gentle for the determined leader of the flock.
Our gaggle of nuns is ably led by Season Luben as Sister Albertine, the only one with more than a handful of lines. Luben directs the other three sisters’ moves. Sisters Elizabeth, Agnes and Gertrud, played respectively by Ashley Miller, Alice Montgomery and Christine Buoy, form a quasi Greek chorus. All the ladies of the cloth aid in set changes on the ingeniously simple revolving stage designed by Scott Campbell and Art Frick.
John Pfaffe is believable as the hardboiled boss-man with a heart of gold who Smith hires out to in order to fill his empty stomach and the nun’s equally empty lauder.
Special kudos to Michael Sanchez who doubles as Father Gomez and Jose, the local restaurateur. Sanchez has developed two decidedly different personae for the two roles. Although the good Father is a bit too quiet and saintly, Jose makes up with verve and gusto.
The pace was a bit off during preview night, as is expected, but the cast will find its tempo by opening night and audiences will be rewarded with an entertaining evening of inspirational theater liberally sprinkled with comic interludes.
Lilies of the Field, adapted for the stage by F. Andrew Leslie from the novel by William Barrett, continues at the Lakewood Playhouse Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through November 13 with a pay-what-you-can night on Oct. 27. For reservations or more information, call 253-588-0042.
The Lakewood Playhouse is located in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, next to the Pierce Transit terminal.
by Lynn Geyer
A review of Lilies of the Field by F. Andrew Leslie, Lakewood Playhouse.
Those of you who regularly attend the productions at Lakewood Playhouse will not be surprised that the current production, “Lilies of the Field” is another hit. Directed by Stacy Gassman and featuring David Dear and Jeanne Ross, this is the story of a young African American man who gets out of the service and decides to enjoy his freedom. In the process, he comes upon a group of German nuns, trying to establish a farm and build a chapel in the Southwest. How he becomes involved in their cause and discovers the meaning of “faith” is the heart of the story, but there is much more.
The play is produced “in the round” a special feature of performances at Lakewood Playhouse. The audience surrounds the play and in the process, becomes part of the play. If you have not experienced theater in the round, take the opportunity to do so. Few playhouses are designed to permit this kind of special performance.
Those of you who saw Sidney Poitier in his Oscar winning performance in the motion picture will not be disappointed in the performance of David Dear as Homer Smith, the hero of the story. Smith, with 13 years of experience in local theater, brings the role all of the levels both physical and emotional required of the role. Jeanne Ross, who has appeared in many Lakewood productions, inhabits the role of Mother Maria Marthe, the strong-willed German nun who understands the power of faith to overcome “impossible” obstacles. If you miss this performance, the next production at Lakewood Playhouse is the ever-popular “Annie” opening Dec. 9. Call the playhouse at 588-0042