Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Taproot's "Pretty Fire" is one hot production

Tracy Michelle Hughes in Pretty Fire (Erik Stuhaug)

Pretty Fire
Through March 22

Taproot’s new black box theater space is getting some inaugural productions and ramping up their workload around there. This month’s production is Pretty Fire, originally written and performed by the amazing Charlayne Woodard, who is a past-master at telling stories alone on stage. Ms. Woodard has performed in Seattle, often at Seattle Repertory Theatre, in the past. If she comes again, please make sure you do everything you can to see her work in person.

But Taproot is providing a real treat by allowing the amazing Ms. Tracy Michelle Hughes to perform the piece. Hughes has performed the piece before, some years ago in Los Angeles, so she brings a familiarity to it that is helpful to the overall effect. Her vigor and commitment to the work is completely submersible into the story at hand, and she makes it her own.

This story begins with a description of Charlayne Woodard’s birth as a preemie whose tenacity becomes part of what makes her the unique person she is. The large, involved family and in particular, the bossy, imperious, and loving Grandmother that holds everyone together, provide the atmosphere that Woodard grew up with.

Woodard’s play is not shy about exposing racism, poverty, Jim Crow, political upheaval, and other difficulties of her life. But she is able to do so with a personal reference point that makes it more powerful and identifiable.

She also writes about fun and enjoyable moments in family life and entwines her family’s religious routines and beliefs, as well. In this piece, the focus is on how she developed her love of performing and how she came to be thrust on the stage in the first place. A cheeky description of Grandma’s dying wish creates a clear understanding of how young children are manipulated, sometimes for their own good, into trying things they find they love.

Hughes’ performance is heart-warming and touching as she performs with only a bench and flowy, easy-to-move clothing and a versatile scarf. Director Nathan Jeffrey provides the rest of what is needed and weaves together the great sound design by Jacob Yarborough, and lighting from Roberta Russell in a seamless production.

Pretty Fire is a proven piece of writing with a talented performer. It is a beautiful and moving evening of theater. It deserves to be seen.

For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org or call 206-781-9707.