American Fiesta/by Steven Tomlinson/directed by David Rose/Colony Theatre/through October 21
Is it possible to define a nation by the dinnerware it uses? Playwright Steven Tomlinson clearly thinks so, as in his American Fiesta, a one-man play now on stage at the Colony Theatre through October 21, dishware, piece by piece, passes through the hands of young and old, of every race and religious denomination, turning the popular Fiesta into a powerful instrument for communizing diversity.
Midwesterner Stephen (Larry Cedar) in true motivational speaker fashion offers through a story about his own life, which includes an obsessive habit of collecting Fiesta ware, a radiant look at America past and present, focusing on what has been lost and more importantly, preserved. He has a male lover Leon whom his parents will not accept; when he announces his plans to marry, they refuse to come to the wedding. The issues of traditional marriage versus the fresh perspective of a gay union come into conflict.
Important side note: Homer Laughlin established his China Company in 1936 in West Virginia, and this is where Fiesta ware began. Solid bright colors with ultra modern design and highly economical were the qualities that made it a popular sell. The old series ended in 1973 and Laughlin started once more in 1985 with new designs. Children have collected their grandmother's set and continue to add on new pieces creating a set of dishes that contains both the old - chips, nicks, warts and all, as they say - and the latest looks. Every chip, every nick has a story to recount and to value.
Stephen describes his collection in great detail and from whom he acquired each and every piece. As the collection changes, so do the events of his life. Marriage, separation from his parents and their eventual acceptance of the situation, if only partial. It all fits into a colorfully varied lifestyle. At play's end, Tomlinson talks about what heaven should be where all the different pieces of the puzzle, of varying shapes and sizes, all fit as one. It's a little poem to community.
Under David Rose's meticulous direction, Cedar is remarkable as he plays Stephen and a myriad of characters, which includes his lover, his parents and others in his eclectic mix of a life. He is great with voices and with making vocal changes quickly and proficiently. He is a perfect match for Tomlinson's vibrant piece. David Potts' scenic design with shelving to hold all of the Fiesta ware becomes a striking work of art as, piece by piece, the collection comes together.
If you love a good story and want to be truly enriched by every detail, you've come to the right place. American Fiesta plays the Colony through October 21 only.