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Review of reviews: Stage

Gee’s Bend

Gee’s BendSpace Theatre, Denver(303) 893-4100

***

Don’t be fooled by references to Gee’s Bend as “that quilting play,” said John Moore in The Denver Post. True, the thematic core of Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s play is the quilting tradition that comes out of the small, isolated, all-black town of Gee’s Bend, Ala. But the actual quilts that put the town on the map are hardly seen in director Kent Gash’s production. Instead, center stage is occupied by sisters Sadie and Nella Pettway, whose lives are portrayed from the late 1930s through the civil-rights era to the near-present day. That’s a lot of ground to cover in just 100 minutes, but the “great artfulness within this story’s many patchwork parts” keeps things from feeling rushed.

Rare is the play that presents two strong female characters, said Bob Bows in Variety. But Gee’s Bend actually adds a third. As the play’s matriarch, Stephanie Berry captures Alice Pettway’s proud need to impart the |quilting art to her daughters and corral their disparate personalities. Daphne Gaines vividly portrays Nella’s obstinacy and refusal to learn what she considers a backward tradition. Nikki Walker is soul-stirring as Sadie, the daughter who ultimately brings the family together, managing to “unite tradition with change, joining Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil-rights movement and having her quilts exhibited at museums across the country.” The only false note in this heartwarming evening is that the actual quilts can’t be reproduced here, due to copyright issues. But chances are you’ll be too moved to care.

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