October 23, 2009 in Features

Civic passes along ‘Pearls’

Play follows necklace over countless lives
By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photo

Tami Rotchford, left, and Jean Hardie star in Spokane Civic Theatre’s production of “String of Pearls.”
(Full-size photo)

If you go

“String of Pearls”

Where: Spokane Civic Theatre’s Firth Chew Studio Theatre, 1020 N. Howard

When: Opens tonight and continues through Nov. 15. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays

Cost: $16 ($8 student rush tickets available 20 minutes before show time if the show is not sold out)

Call: (509) 325-2507 or TicketsWest outlets (800-325-SEAT, www.ticketswest.com).

The concept of Michele Lowe’s 2004 comedy-drama “String of Pearls” is simple enough: The play follows one pearl necklace as it enters the lives of several women over the years.

There’s a widow, a swimmer, a ballet company chaperone, a 300-pound lesbian gravedigger and a divorced landlady.

Oh, and a striped bass. Can’t wait to find out how Lowe fits that character into the plot.

We’ll get our chance beginning tonight at the Firth Chew Studio Theatre, the intimate black-box space in the lower level of the Spokane Civic Theatre.

The concept of following an object through the years is not new – “The Red Violin” being just one example – but by most accounts, Lowe carries it off with aplomb.

“Lowe’s script … is a highly satisfying, often hilarious blend of sex, satire, poignancy and absurdism, with an emphasis on women’s relationships and the inevitability of both loss and happiness,” wrote New York Times critic Anita Gates about the show’s 2004 New York production.

Since that off-Broadway success, the show has been a popular choice for regional theaters around the country. It doesn’t hurt that it’s an excellent showcase for actresses.

Versatility is the key when it comes to casting this show. A five-woman cast plays 27 characters. This cast includes some of Spokane’s top actresses: Kate Vita, Jean Hardie, Tami Rotchford, Katie Carey and Sarah Denison.

“Even Ms. Lowe’s minor characters are memorable,” said Gates.

Susan Hardie, who has provided many of the Studio Theatre’s most memorable moments, directs.

The titular string of pearls begins its journey as a gift from a husband to a wife. She soon becomes a widow and the story of the necklace takes on various loops and coils along the way.

The New York Times review mentions at least one enthusiastic monologue about sex – the title itself contains an innuendo – which is why the Civic notes that this play is “for mature audiences.”

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