“The Good Counselor” opens Friday, January 10th 2013 at Carpenter Square Theatre at 800 W. Main in Oklahoma City. Written by Kathryn Grant, the story takes on the question of nature versus nurture, and how the realities of racism and classism can twist situations that may at first seem straightforward. The play is directed by Rhonda Clark, with Rehearsal Stage Manager Jaefinn Carr and Production Stage Manager A’mari Jo Rocheleauthe and Light/Set Designer James Polk Wilson. The show runs through February 2nd. Specific show times, tickets and directions are available at www.carpentersquare.com.
The play opens with Rita (Bernadette Puckett) getting ready for church. One of the things that is really interesting about this production is that her character has relatively few speaking lines—you get the gist of who she is mainly through body language and exposition from the other actors. We spend the majority of our time with Rita’s two sons, Vincent and Ray. Vincent (played by Stephen Dillard-Carroll) seems the prodigal son returned—a successful attorney, well-liked by the community and with plenty of money to slide over to his family despite his job as a public defender. Brian C. Scott is fantastic as Ray, who flails at the other end of the spectrum without steady employment, trying to overcome a longstanding drug problem.
The status quo is upset when Vincent is asked to defend Evelyn (Radonna Carter), on trial for the death of her newborn son. Evelyn and Vincent take their time getting over their preconceived notions of each other. Evelyn is the epitome of ‘white trash’—uneducated, rude, and offended by the idea that she must be defended by a homosexual black man who could not possibly know anything about her life. Ray has little sympathy for a woman who failed so spectacularly at parenting when his own mother survived similar circumstances. A little guidance from his boss, Maia (Lana Henson), helps soften Vincent’s opinions about Evelyn and, consequently, reexamine those about his own mother. Some of the suspicions Vincent harbors about Evelyn are perhaps projected from his own childhood as he is unable to face those realities himself.
While not all elements of the production flow seamlessly, the play is well produced. Clark’s use of popular music between scenes is an effective segue from one setting (or era) to another. Wilson’s train trestle, always in the background, serves as a constant reminder of both where the characters are and where they come from. Dillard-Carroll’s Vincent makes it clear that he suffers from survivor’s guilt, and Scott’s Ray is clearly someone who was never allowed to get over his childhood foibles and neglect. Carter’s shrill Evelyn is a trapped, frantic young woman who most of society wants to forget. Henson is the production’s quiet conscience, reminding us that just because empathy is not automatic doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved. Puckett’s Rita is stoic and defensive, having done the best that she could.
It is wonderful and lovely that we’re getting shows like this in Oklahoma. CST consistently produces shows outside the usual fare offered, and we’re lucky to have the opportunity to see them without having to travel too far. Go see “The Good Counselor”!