‘Autumn Garden’ opens Canebrake season

Published 2:27 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The play also kicked off the Demopolis portion of the Southern Literary Trail on Thursday and continued through Saturday at the Old School theater at the corner of Main Avenue and Pettus Street.

Set in 1949 in a small Southern town near the Gulf coast, it focuses on a group of people at a boarding house. They all have regrets in their lives, centered on past loves and current marriages.

Directed by Audrey Hamilton, the cast included Dana Eddins as Constance, who inherited the boarding house and is welcoming back an artist she once fell in love with, Nick Denery, played by Kim Shelton. Nick has since married to Nina, played by Rebecca Hasty, but still plays the boyish rogue.

Nick once painted a portrait of Constance as a young girl and now wants to paint her as she is now, something that Constance is hesitant to do, yet agrees to through the prodding of the charming Nick.

He flirts with Constance and her French niece, Sophie, played by Chelsea Lavender, as well as with Rose Griggs, played by Dana Freeman, who is married to Gen. Griggs, played by John Johnston. The Griggses are tenants in the boarding house, and are caught up in the turmoil caused by Nick. Rose and the general are a May-December couple who know they have little in common but cannot reconcile that into divorce.

Kirk Brooker plays Edward Crossman, a local banker who has always loved Constance, but could never bring himself to let her know. He is straightforward with Nick, a former schoolmate, and lets him know in no uncertain terms how unwelcome he is in his former hometown.

The cast was punctuated by Leon, played by Mike Baker, and Mrs. Ellis, played by Jennifer Roemen. Leon assists Sophie with the household chores, all the while agitating Mrs. Ellis, an elderly tenant in the boarding house who provides wisdom between dozes.

The three-act play was so titled because most of the main characters are in the autumn of their lives, looking back on their pasts with regret, guilt and shame.

Despite the somber theme of bittersweet reflection, the Canebrake Players provided an excellent performance, smoothly and dramatically delivering the lines of an emotionally varying and challenging story.

The next performance of the Canebrake Players will be in August, when the troupe performs the musical “Big River,” based on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

The original 1984 Broadway production featured John Goodman and Rene Auberjonois and earned eight Tony Awards and nine Drama Desk Awards. The 2003 revival earned three Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards and featured a cast of both hearing and deaf performers.