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Theatre Review: Neat

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The first scene is the most intense one in this play - a searing, tragic episode in which a baby girl is accidentally fed something poisonous.

" 'What's wrong with her, what did you do?' "

" 'Why I didn't do nothing. I fed her, I gave her the cod liver oil?'"

" 'How much cod liver oil, mama? Where's it at?' "

"Grandma ran into the kitchen and looked at the table where the brown bottle sat.

"Camphorated oil! Mama, you didn't give her camphorated oil?"

It's a dreadful dilemma made worse because in the Deep South during the '50s, hospitals were segregated, and the baby is turned away by the nearest emergency room because she's black.

Actress Danielle Truitt performs these scenes from the life of playwright Charlayne Woodard.  Even though Truitt grew up in Sacramento, not the Deep South, and she was born well after the 60s, she is very convincing in this stylish solo show. She uses small gestures and voice modulation to etch in a dozen characters in scenes covering 20-some years. Gradually, the story moves to Upstate New York. There a Southern girl reacts with amazement when she feels the northern winter for the first time.

"There's snow… there's snow, Charlayne. Feel  it, feel it, Charlayne, Taste it, taste the snow!"

Truitt's beaming smile and open mouth, trying to catch a falling flake, draw you into this magical experience.

It's intimate, personal scenes like this one, filling nearly two hours on stage, that almost make you feel like you've lived this girl's life, and walked a mile in her shoes.

"Neat" continues at the B Street Theatre through October 10th.

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